Industry News

Public Health Agency Shut Down by Ransomware Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

The Champaign Urbana Public Health District (CHUPD) in Illinois, which serves hundreds of thousands of Americans, has had its official website taken down by ransomware operatives.

CHUPD serves 210,000 people, including the University of Illinois, with advice and information on the biological virus outbreak that is COVID-19.

On March 12, the agency set up an alternative website as it dealt with a ransomware infection that took its primary website offline, The Register reports. It also maintains a Facebook page that reportedly acts as its preferred outlet.

“We are working to get our website up and running,” CHUPD said.

The outage began Tuesday morning and the cause was soon confirmed as the Netwalker ransomware, also known as MailTo.

Netwalker operators mainly target large organizations, including government agencies. This attack, however, doesn’t seem targeted. Rather, the malware simply caught the health agency off guard, possibly due to lax safeguards.

This issue is common among institutions across the United States, as evidenced by the spate of ransomware infections across education, healthcare and government institutions throughout 2019 and into 2020.

The University of Illinois is also affected by the Netwalker outbreak. The school said it will resume classes online after Spring Break.

About the author


Filip is an experienced writer with over a decade of practice in the technology realm. He has covered a wide range of topics in such industries as gaming, software, hardware and cyber-security, and has worked in various B2B and B2C marketing roles. Filip currently serves as Information Security Analyst with Bitdefender.