Tech & Science

Microsoft offers protection to healthcare staff

Microsoft will provide security tools to healthcare organisations around the world amid a spike in attacks during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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AccountGuard will be free to healthcare, human rights, and humanitarian groups during the crisis.

The program tells users when Microsoft has detected an attack, and provides guidance on stopping it.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has been among the victims of attempted cyber-attacks over the last month.

Microsoft says human rights organisations Amnesty International, Freedom House, and Human Rights Watch are among those to have taken advantage of the offer.

“Every patient deserves the best possible healthcare treatment, and we all need to thank and applaud the truly heroic work by those risking their own health to help those who are sick,” said a company spokesman.

“Their work is challenging enough but is being made more difficult by cyber-attacks, now or in the future.”

The company said it had tracked five separate nation-state groups attempting to hack email accounts at nine prominent human rights organisations almost 1,000 times in the last year alone.

The spokesman added: “Both AccountGuard for Healthcare and AccountGuard for Human Rights Organisations will initially be available to organisations in the 29 countries where we already offer AccountGuard.

“Subject to the review of local laws and regulations, we will be adding new countries based on need and local law.”

WHO chief information security officer Flavio Aggio said attempted cyber-attacks against the global organisation had "more than doubled" last month, including an alleged effort on 13 March.

Privacy has also become a major concern during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A research team found that hugely popular video-meetings app Zoom had "significant weaknesses" which might make it unsuitable for some conversations.

Until recently, Zoom was used mainly by large businesses for video conference calls.

But the explosion in users during the coronavirus outbreak has created "a new gold rush for cyber-spies", according to the Citizen Lab.

The company said it would pause the development of any new features to concentrate on safety and privacy issues.

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