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  • Jessica Barker

Our physical security awareness campaign for the CV19 Cyber Volunteers

The CV19 volunteers’ mission is to protect the people who protect our health. The group was formed by three cyber security professionals, who were quickly joined by thousands of other volunteers, offering pro bono support to healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic. I felt privileged to be approached to lead the awareness project and the Cygenta teamquickly and enthusiastically joined me, especially Madeline Howard. We designed and delivered the first awareness campaign, with a focus on phishing and were delighted to see it receive such a positive response. We’re proud to contribute our efforts to CV19 and to publish our second awareness campaign now.

Why are the cyber volunteers launching a physical security campaign?

While hospitals have been busy responding to the COVID-19 crisis, they are also being targeted by criminals. At CV19, we have received reports of many physical security attacks that are taking advantage of the crisis including thefts of PPE, hand sanitiser and healthcare workers’ identity badges. This is a widespread issue which has been flagged to us by healthcare providers across the UK and Europe.

Some reports suggest that these physical security issues are becoming more pressing, with hospitals becoming more open as many countries emerge from lockdown. Physical security is always an issue in hospitals, partly because so many areas of a hospital are open to the public. But as we continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, protecting these hospitals and healthcare staff is more important than ever.

Why did you pick this issue for this awareness campaign?

We picked physical security for the awareness campaign based on our experience and consultations with the healthcare organisations that CV19 has been supporting.

At Cygenta, we work with many healthcare institutions and so we understand their security pain-points. In a recent social engineering assessment of a hospital (before the pandemic), we were able to access unlocked computers and get our hands on identity badges and scrubs. In a social engineering assessment, we are testing the security of an organisation or building by attempting to compromise it in much the same way that criminals would. The difference is that we don’t break the law, we have a contract to do it and we provide a report of recommendations to improve security.

Through the CV19 group, we have heard of reports that hospitals have been targeted for their PPE, hand sanitiser, medicine and even loo roll during the pandemic. We have also been informed of cases where healthcare workers have had their identity badges stolen, presumably either to access restricted areas of a hospital or to fraudulently exploit goodwill offers made available to healthcare workers in recognition of their incredible efforts in the face of COVID-19.

What do healthcare providers do about these issues and how can the cyber volunteers help?

It is important to be aware of the issues, first and foremost, and then to act on that awareness. We have highlighted three fundamental behaviours for healthcare workers to focus on when it comes to physical security:

Protect your PPE

Thieves are targeting this precious resource

Wear your ID badges inside, never out

Your colleagues need to know who you are but criminals don’t

Log off your computers

Don’t leave your devices open to anyone else We have produced this campaign to raise awareness of physical security in healthcare. We would like you to share the campaign, download the resources and use them to spread the word!

About CV19 The cyber volunteers 19 group was founded to provide pro bono advice, guidance and assistance to healthcare providers across Europe during the pandemic. We can help hospitals with threat intelligence, free awareness materials for staff, advice on the current threats and vulnerabilities and help you identify risks and vulnerabilities to your specific organisation. If you would like any help or advice please visit the CV19 website for more information and get in touch.

Stay safe and well 💜 I first published this article on the CV19 blog.


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