Reading Time: 2 minutes

The Maryland Department of Health was targeted by a cyberattack detected on December 4th, 2021. Unfortunately, this attack forced the agency to take some of its servers offline. As a result, the department couldn’t update its Covid-19 data dashboard for weeks.

The state has declared few details about what it describes as a “network security incident,” even after being fixed on December 20th, 2021.

While the officials haven’t entirely explained the actual cause of the cybersecurity breach or the consequences it bears, a news conference on Monday delivered few answers. The health department spokesman has advised visiting a page on the agency’s website that contains more information about this incident.

According to the health department, they detected unauthorized activity on their various network infrastructure systems. The official immediately took some servers down to protect the complete network. Also, a health department spokesman told that the employees were advised not to use the computers issued by the state.

Chip Stewart, Maryland’s chief information security officer, enforced “an incident command structure with a focus on protecting the MDH network, conducting a forensic investigation, and restoring core services.”

The concerned authorities have not yet disclosed the type of “network security incident” that forced the officials to take down multiple servers and execute an investigation by various law enforcement agencies. However, it is speculation that this incident could be similar to a ransomware attack.

Joe Carrigan, a senior security engineer at the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute, said:

The fact that they’ve disconnected parts of their network, it would seem, from the Internet might be an effort… to get the bad guys out of the system before they can issue the commands to encrypt the data.

Unfortunately, due to the incident, the officials couldn’t update the Covid-19 data dashboard for weeks. The department’s dashboard represented 90% of the metrics solely related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The state hasn’t announced new death due to Covid-19 since the incident. Also, the demographic about the infected and metrics by jurisdiction isn’t updated. The website still states that it will restore the detailed data as soon as possible.

There’s no doubt that this incident has affected the health department’s ability to report coronavirus data. Luckily, many of its essential functions were not affected because they used cloud-based services.

According to the department, it is yet to confirm whether any data was lost or compromised. Just out of precaution, multiple servers are kept offline while the investigation continues and systems are restored.

State lawmakers praised the health department and raised concerns about the functions interrupted by the incident. State Senator Katie Fry Hester said that some associates needed medication via a state HIV program. State hospital workers used fax machines to order supplies because email had been down.

Recently, the Brazilian Ministry of Health was also hit by a cyberattack, compromising their internal systems. Ohio-based DNS testing center also suffered from a cyberattack affecting 2.1 million people.