Czech hospitals report cyberattacks day after national watchdog's warning

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Two hospitals in the Czech Republic reported attempted attacks on their computer systems on Friday, a day after the national cybersecurity watchdog said it expected a wave of cyberattacks on the country’s critical infrastructure.

The university hospital in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava said it had foiled an attack on one of its servers overnight.

“Last night, the hospital was a target of a cyber attack,” spokeswoman Petra Petlachova said. “It was aimed at one of our servers. Our IT staff have foiled similar attacks often. We continuously take maximum measures to secure and protect our IT infrastructure,” she said.

A spokesman at the country’s NUKIB cybersecurity watchdog said he could not immediately confirm the Ostrava incident.

At another hospital, in the eastern city of Olomouc, a spokesman said staff had also detected suspicous activity on Friday.

“We withstood the flagged hacking attacks. We noticed heightened activity (in the form) of scanning of our network from the flagged IP addresses, and we made an extra back-up of all our systems as recommended,” Adam Fritscher said.

NUKIB had said on Thursday that it expected similar attacks aimed at damaging or completely disabling computers and computer systems in the coming days.

A Czech official speaking on condition of anonymity said it was not clear who was responsible for the activity NUKIB had identified but it was thought to be the work of a “serious and advanced adversary.”

Hackers ranging from cyber criminals to government-backed spies are thought to have been targeting businesses, governments and healthcare organisations with attempts to steal sensitive information related to the new coronavirus outbreak.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis said in a radio interview on Friday that the government was devoting “absolute attention” to potential attacks.

“We have registered this information. At the beginning, there was some kind of probing of what our systems can withstand. Now there have been reportedly some attacks on one hospital and the Health Ministry but, as I spoke to the chief of NUKIB (Karel) Rehka, we have withstood it,” Babis told Radio Z.

“I don’t understand why anyone would do anything so filthy at this time.”

Reporting by Jan Lopatka and Robert Muller; Editing by Hugh Lawson