Posted 8 April 2020 in News, Security.
Organizations involved in critical first responder activities during the COVID-19 pandemic are suffering a massive increase in targeted cyberattacks. In response, cybersecurity experts from across Canada, including RHEA staff, have formed a volunteer team to help Canadian first responder organizations protect themselves and deal with any cyber incidents.

Among the daily reports of the impact of COVID-19 on hospitals, healthcare providers, clinics, medical laboratories and other organizations shouldering the healthcare burden of the pandemic, shocking tales are emerging of an explosion in coronavirus-related cyberattacks.

RHEA cybersecurity staff are among those volunteering their time to support these organizations as part of an industry-wide task force. This is one of a number of initiatives that RHEA Group is either taking directly or involved in in response to the coronavirus pandemic, including measures to minimize the effects on the businesses of RHEA and its client and collaborators, while protecting individuals and their families.

Keeping hospitals and patients safe

IT departments in these organizations are already having to cope with altered work patterns, due to increases in demand for services and the requirement to support unprecedented numbers of home workers, all while keeping data and communications secure. For some, cyberattacks threaten to impact their ability to carry out their first responder tasks, including treating patients.

In response, a group of leading cybersecurity consultants, including RHEA staff, have initiated the creation of the Canadian COVID-19 Cyber Defence Force – a volunteer task force now numbering around 100 cybersecurity consultants, IT professionals and companies who are offering their services and skills free to the Canadian first responder sector in a Government-approved scheme.

“The initiative will match capabilities from industry volunteers to the needs of the healthcare organizations and municipalities in a way that’s supported by the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security,” explained Robert Mazzolin, RHEA Group’s Chief Cybersecurity Strategist.

“As a multinational corporation whose key mission is to provide secure cyber and space solutions to support critical infrastructure, governments and key institutions responsible for providing societal resiliency, which in turn underpins the security and economy of our nations, we have capabilities and capacity that can be brought to bear for good during this period of crisis,” added Robert.

“Then individually, as responsible citizens, I believe it is our moral duty to make our skills and capabilities available to support national efforts to deal with this challenge. And that is what we are doing here.”

Providing essential cyber support

Robert Mazzolin worked with Rafal Rohozinski, CEO of the SecDev Group, who instigated the initiative, to spearhead the volunteer recruitment effort. A website, sponsored by SecDev, will be launched within days for institutions with specific needs to solicit support, with Slack used behind the scenes to match volunteer capacity to these requirements.

The group’s guiding principles are:

  • No hospital should close because of a ransomware attack.
  • No patient should go untreated as a result of cyberattacks.
  • No essential service should be held hostage to malicious cyber actors.

Importantly, the group has no commercial role. “These times are unprecedented, RHEA’s contribution is driven to enhance and supplement leveraging fully from our  capabilities and experience,” said Yves Metten, Executive Vice-President, RHEA Group.

“We’re really proud that our team members are offering their services as volunteers in this Canadian first responder initiative and will support them in any way we can.”

How to seek cybersecurity support related to COVID-19

If you are working in a Canadian first responder organization and need IT support surrounding your cybersecurity situation, we will publish details of the COVID-19 Cyber Defence Force website as soon as it is live. In the meantime, please get in contact with us and we will forward your request to the volunteer team.

If you are a RHEA Group global customer and require additional security-related support because your team’s working arrangements have changed due to COVID-19, please contact your RHEA representative on We have adapted our service offering to take into account the different working environments for many staff, so please tell us how we can help.