Cybercriminals are exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to gain access to confidential personal and financial information, warns David Finkelstein, St. Luke’s Information Security Director. He encourages everyone to be wary of on-line ads and websites that offer COVID-19 cures or preventions.
“The COVID-19 pandemic creates a perfect environment for unscrupulous individuals,” Finkelstein says. “Many people are afraid and desperately looking for ways to protect themselves and their families. As a result, they are more vulnerable to falling for a hacker’s trick than they might be during more typical times. Unfortunately, there are no easy fixes for COVID-19 so be sure to get your information from reputable sources like www.sluhn.org or www.CDC.gov.”
Hackers use social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, email, on-line ads and fictitious websites to trick people into providing usernames and passwords. Often, with this information, they can gain entry into an individual’s computer files and find such information as addresses, birth dates and social security numbers, as well as credit card and bank account numbers. They can also launch malware on the individual’s computer.
“The increased number of people working from home can also make employers more vulnerable to cyberattacks too,” he says. “It’s no longer business as usual.”
Some hackers use a tactic called phishing, a cybercrime in which a target or targets are contacted by email, telephone or text message by someone posing as a legitimate individual or institution to lure individuals into providing sensitive data. If the individual is working on their company’s information system, they might accidentally enable the cybercriminal access to that system too.
A popular trick of cybercriminals is to pose as an executive and send a fictitious email, often with an attachment or a link to a website. The names of company executives are often available through a google search or on the company’s website.
“Before opening emails or attachments from people outside of your usual contacts, doublecheck the email address,” he says. “If it doesn’t look right, delete it. If it’s a suspicious work-related email, contact your company’s information services department immediately.”
As always, to protect your information:
- Do not provide your credentials, usernames or passwords unless you are confident of the source.
- Do not open email attachments from unknown sources.
- Do not click on a link that takes you to a website, even those that appear to be reliable. Use google or other favorite search engine to find websites and then type the URL into your web browser instead.
- Keep your computer, router firmware and web browser up to date.
- Make sure you have security software installed and keep it current.
- Install software updates promptly
For information on the COVID-19 pandemic, visit www.sluhn.org/covid-19.
About St. Luke’s
Founded in 1872, St. Luke’s University Health Network (SLUHN) is a fully integrated, regional, non-profit network of more than 15,000 employees providing services at 11 hospitals and 300 outpatient sites. With annual net revenue greater than $2 billion, the Network’s service area includes 11 counties: Lehigh, Northampton, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Montgomery, Monroe, Schuylkill and Luzerne counties in Pennsylvania and Warren and Hunterdon counties in New Jersey. Dedicated to advancing medical education, St. Luke’s is the preeminent teaching hospital in central-eastern Pennsylvania. In partnership with Temple University, St. Luke’s created the Lehigh Valley’s first and only regional medical school campus. It also operates the nation’s longest continuously operating School of Nursing, established in 1884, and 34 fully accredited graduate medical educational programs with 263 residents and fellows. St. Luke’s is the only Lehigh Valley-based health care system with Medicare’s five- and four-star ratings (the highest) for quality, efficiency and patient satisfaction. St. Luke’s is both a Leapfrog Group and Healthgrades Top Hospital and a Newsweek World’s Best Hospital. In 2019, three of IBM Watson Health’s 100 Top Hospitals were St. Luke’s hospitals. St. Luke’s University Hospital has earned the 100 Top Major Teaching Hospital designation from IBM Watson Health seven times total and five years in a row. St. Luke’s has also been cited by IBM Watson Health as a 50 Top Cardiovascular Program. Utilizing the Epic electronic medical record (EMR) system for both inpatient and outpatient services, the Network is a multi-year recipient of the Most Wired award recognizing the breadth of the SLUHN’s information technology applications such as telehealth, online scheduling and online pricing information. St. Luke’s is also recognized as one of the state’s lowest cost providers.