Fear and panic have been sweeping the United States as the coronavirus pandemic gets more intense each day.
And there is concern among some that there are foreign governments involved in spreading disinformation to keep Americans in fear.
But Attorney general William Barr is fighting back and saying there will be swift and decisive action taken against any government engaged in such actions, the Associated Press reported.
This would also apply to any government involved in launching a DOD (denial of service) attack against the computers and networks of the Department of Health and Human Services.
“Our primary role right now is to investigate,” he said. “The FBI is very active, trying to determine who is responsible for these things.”
This statement came after U.S. national security officials reported on Monday that there was a “cyber incident” that involved the Health and Human Services Department networks.
They didn’t detail the scope of the incident, but HHS Secretary Alex Azar later said the networks were not penetrated and that the department has taken strong defensive action.
A denial of service attack occurs when a perpetrator trying to make a network unavailable to its intended user temporarily disrupts internet connections.
It came just days after federal officials began confronting what they said was a deliberate effort by a foreign entity to sow fears of a nationwide quarantine amid the virus outbreak. Agencies took coordinated action Sunday evening to deny that any such plans were put in place, as they tried to calm a nation already on edge by disruptions to daily life caused by the coronavirus.
Barr did not speculate as to which government could be involved in the attack but he promised that there would be swift punishment for anyone involved.
He said he would not tolerate anyone, or any government taking advantage of the situation to stoke fear or spread disinformation
“When you’re dealing with something like a denial of service attack on HHS during a pandemic, that’s a very grave action for another country to take,” he said. “So, if it is another country doing this, I’m sure the ramifications will be severe.”
There have been rumors and speculation about the government’s response to the pandemic going on for weeks and state and local governments have been telling citizens to seek out trusted sources.
He said that he was not aware of any nation quarantine that is coming as some rumors have speculated on the Internet.
Barr said he was concerned because there was evidence that there are “increasing indications of people trying to take advantage of the crisis.”
Barr told U.S attorneys in a memo sent on Monday that they should make it a priority to prosecute anyone engaged in attempting to profit from the pandemic.
“Our primary role is really to police the market and make sure people are not taking advantage,” the attorney general said.