Cyberattacks as a Public Health Threat

The first known death from a cyberattack raises the prospect that malware could be more than just a financial crime.

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Traditionally, military, government and financial institutions have been the primary targets of international cyberattacks. But the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the extent to which soft targets such as pharmaceutical companies and hospitals are attractive. It’s time to consider the geopolitical reality that cyberattacks can threaten public health and safety. Coming to a Hospital Near You Before the coronavirus pandemic, there were minimal consequences to a cyberattack on public health targets. The tampering with pharmaceuticals or the death of patients in a hospital would make medical institutions and governments look weak or negligent, but the domestic and geopolitical impact would have been minimal. But the pandemic has put public health at the center of national concern and has pitted political and health institutions against one another. As a result, deep political and social tensions have been exposed. This now makes attacking public health more attractive because the consequences of doing so would yield higher returns. Now, an attack on public health could cause real problems for governments – by creating, for example, a social backlash that threatens stability or diverts attention and resources elsewhere. Until now, attacks on public health targets focused primarily on financial returns for the attacker. Indeed, a […]

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Alex Berezow
Alex Berezow joins Geopolitical Futures to analyze the impact of science, technology, and public health on geopolitics. Dr. Berezow is a prolific science writer who has written over 1,000 articles, many of which appeared in major news outlets. He is also a monthly columnist for the Puget Sound Business Journal and a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors. Currently, Dr. Berezow is also Vice President of Scientific Communications at the American Council on Science and Health, a consumer advocacy non-profit whose mission is to debunk “junk science,” promote evidence-based policy, and separate exaggerated health scares from legitimate health threats. He is also a Non-Resident Fellow at the Council on Strategic Risks. Previously, he was founding editor of RealClearScience (of the RealClearPolitics family of websites), and he served as assistant editor of RealClearWorld, where he specialized in European affairs. Dr. Berezow holds a PhD in microbiology from the University of Washington.