In the wake of COVID-19, we recognize that the internet is a powerful necessity connecting our communities, work, and life. We are also witnessing firsthand how digital technology is being used to directly confront the virus. Artificial Intelligence has allowed us to track the early outbreaks of COVID-19 with incredible effectiveness. Supercomputers have analyzed thousands of drug compounds to identify potential candidates for cures. Companies are using 3-D printers to mass produce critical parts to help contain the virus. Internet carriers and service providers have lifted data caps and fees as more and more of us are working remotely. E-commerce platforms have temporarily prioritized household staples, medical supplies, and other high-demand products.
Unfortunately, there are some online who are using this global crisis for their own gain and are taking advantage this new vulnerability. Recent, cyberattacks have targeted critical healthcare infrastructure around the world, making it harder for frontline workers to do their already-difficult jobs. In the month of March alone, hospitals, medical facilities, government health agencies, testing centers, and even the World Health Organization, have faced targeted cyberthreats brought on by digital bad actors. The motivations behind the attacks may vary, whether for financial gain or accessing the latest medical advances first—but they all undermine our ability to work together in response to COVID-19.
That is why there couldn’t be a clearer call for us as digital citizens: amidst this pandemic, we need a global ceasefire of cyberattacks to protect our digital world.
Just a few weeks ago more than 53 countries joined UN Secretary General António Guterres in calling for an immediate ceasefire in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 2 million people around the world signing the UN petition. The UN Under-Secretary-General Fabrizio Hochschild, special adviser to the secretary-general, working on digital cooperation issues, is now making a clear and urgent call for a digital ceasefire:
“Maintaining and ensuring trust and security in the digital world during this global health crisis is imperative. The responsible use of technology must be protected through better international cooperation. We must commit to an immediate digital ceasefire, and governments, civil society groups, and the private sector must set the tone. Without this step, our global response to the pandemic will be weakened.”
This is a matter of life and death—we cannot afford to wake up in a day, week, or a month from now and see our work to end this pandemic paralyzed by a cyberattack. As the world continues to confront the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19, we must remember that we’re all in this together. And our digital technologies, a crucial tool in our fight against COVID-19, must be protected, now more than ever.