World Leaders Call on Governments to Stop Cyberattacks Plaguing Healthcare Systems

Today, the President and the CEO of the CyberPeace Institute, Marietje Schaake and Stéphane Duguin, joined  Madeleine Albright, Desmond Tutu, and Mohamed ElBaradei Among More Than Forty International Leaders Calling on All Governments to Work Together to Stop Attacks Hampering Hospitals and International Organizations Fighting COVID-19 

GENEVA, Switzerland – May 26, 2020 –  Today more than 40 former and current international leaders from across government, industry, international and non-governmental organizations and academia have called on the world’s governments to take immediate and decisive action to prevent and stop cyberattacks that target hospitals, healthcare, research organizations, and international authorities providing critical care and guidance in the midst of the ongoing global pandemic. The signatories demand that governments work together, including at the United Nations, to reaffirm and recommit to international rules that prohibit such actions, and to join forces with civil society and the private sector, to ensure that medical facilities are respected and protected, and to hold attackers accountable.

The call follows cyberattacks in recent weeks against medical facilities, including in the Czech Republic, France, Spain, Thailand, and the United States, international organizations such as the World Health Organizations, and other health authorities. These attacks range from ransomware operations aimed at crippling primary and urgent care networks in exchange for payouts to disinformation campaigns aimed at undermining and disrupting wider elements of the response to the pandemic, including testing and vaccine research facilities. Where successful, these attacks have interrupted the provision of healthcare and put additional costs on healthcare providers. They underline the vulnerability of this sector to cyberattacks at a time when medical care is needed more than ever.   

We’re in the midst of the most urgent health crisis in modern history, and these attacks threaten all of humanity,” said Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross and signatory of the call. “We must take action collectively to ensure this threat is addressed, and already fragile health care systems, particularly in countries affected by war and violence are not put at further risk by cyber operations.” 

The Call to Action comes against the background of important discussions on cyber stability and cyber-attacks against healthcare facilities in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, including in the United Nations Security Council and two United Nations General Assembly-mandated cyber processes. 

As healthcare professionals are protecting us in the real world, it is up to civil society, industry and governments to collectively act for their protection in cyberspace”, said Stéphane Duguin, Chief Executive Officer at the CyberPeace Institute. “In this effort, humanity needs governments to work together by setting the tone and the example, to ensure healthcare is protected, and perpetrators are held accountable.”

Additional notable signatories include former Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov; former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad Al Hussein; former Director General of the World Health Organization Margaret Chan; former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo; and Microsoft President Brad Smith. The signatories also include 7 Nobel Prize Laureates.  

The letter, which is featured today in full-page print advertisements in The New York Times and The Guardian, specifically calls on all governments to take immediate action including by asserting unequivocally that cyber operations against healthcare facilities are unlawful and unacceptable and to work with each other, with civil society and with the private sector, to ensure that medical facilities are respected and protected.

Full list of signatories: 

Dapo Akande, Professor of Public International Law, University of Oxford

Madeleine Albright, Former Secretary of State, United States

José María Álvarez-Pallete López, Chairman & CEO, Telefónica

Ban Ki-moon, Former Secretary General of the United Nations

Lakhdar Brahimi, Former Foreign Minister, Algeria

John Bruton, Former Taoiseach, Ireland

Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Former President, Brazil

Vint Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google, United States

Margaret Chan, Former Director-General, World Health Organization

Eva Chen, Chief Executive Officer, Trend Micro

Stephane Duguin, Chief Executive Officer, CyberPeace Institute

Mohamed ElBaradei, Former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (Nobel Peace Prize Laureate)

Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (Nobel Peace Prize Laureate)

Mikhail Gorbachev, Former President, Soviet Union (Nobel Peace Prize Laureate)*

Gro Harlem Brundtland, Former Director General, World Health Organization

Richard J. Hatchett, Chief Executive Officer of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations

Zhixiong Huang, Professor of International Law, Wuhan University

Igor Ivanov, Former Foreign Minister, Russia

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Former President, Liberia (Nobel Peace Prize Laureate)

Eugene Kaspersky, Chief Executive Officer, Kaspersky

Khoo Boon Hui, Former President, INTERPOL

Larry Kramer, President, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Ricardo Lagos, Former President, Chile

Doris Leuthard, Former President of the Swiss Confederation

Adrian Lovett, President and Chief Executive Officer, World Wide Web Foundation

Susana Malcorra, Former Foreign Minister, Argentina

Peter Maurer, President, International Committee of the Red Cross

Daniel Mitov, Former Foreign Minister, Bulgaria

Eduardo Montealegre, Former Foreign Minister, Nicaragua

Marty Natalegawa, Former Foreign Minister, Indonesia

Nandan Nilekani, Non-Executive Chairman of the Board, Infosys

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Former Finance Minister, Nigeria

Maia Panjikidze, Former Foreign Minister, Georgia

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Sir Richard J. Roberts, Chief Scientific Officer, New England Biolabs (Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine)

Francesco Rocca, President, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Julio María Sanguinetti, Former President, Uruguay

Juan Manuel Santos, Former President, Colombia (Nobel Peace Prize Laureate)

Samir Saran, President, Observer Research Foundation

Marietje Schaake, Former Member of the European Parliament

Michael Schmitt, Professor of International Law, University of Reading, United States

Wendy Sherman, Former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, United States

Brad Smith, President, Microsoft

Helle Thorning Schmidt, Former Prime Minister, Denmark

Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town (Nobel Peace Prize Laureate)

Danilo Türk, Former President, Slovenia

Lech Wałęsa, Former Polish President (Nobel Peace Prize Laureate)

Sir Graham Watson, Former Member of the European Parliament, UK

Jonathan Winer, Former U.S Special Envoy for Libya; Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Law Enforcement at the U.S Department of State

Harold F. Wolf III, Chief Executive Officer, Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society

Ernesto Zedillo, Former President, Mexico

*In signing this Statement, I also urge the convening of the special session of the UN General Assembly to discuss cessation of armed conflicts and reduction of military budgets. Mikhail Gorbachev


More on the letter is available:  


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