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Feds investigating possible cyber attack at HHS amid coronavirus pandemic

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Federal authorities are investigating a cyber attack on Health and Human Services networks, as the agency puts its energy into addressing the coronavirus pandemic. CBS News confirms that it was a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack targeting the HHS IT system's bandwidth. 

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency released a statement saying that it has taken "a number of steps over the last several weeks to increase cybersecurity preparedness" in federal agencies. These steps include more monitoring, issuing recommendations as more employees telework as a result of the coronavirus and "protecting particularly important systems supporting COVID response efforts."

CISA expressed confidence the measures it's taking are "sufficient" and it will watch and defend against any further malicious actions, CISAA spokesperson Sara Sendek said.

HHS said in a statement that on Sunday it "became aware of a significant increase in activity on HHS cyber infrastructure." Its IT infrastructure is continuously monitored for cyber threats and vulnerabilities, spokesperson Caitlin Oakley said Monday. She also said that "early on" in its response to COVID-19, the department implemented extra protections, and it is coordinating with federal law enforcement.

On Monday, the National Security Council acknowledged a cyber incident and said HHS networks are operating normally now. 

HHS is closely involved in the administration's efforts to address the coronavirus crisis, as the number of confirmed cases continue to climb and as more and more states order the shuttering of restaurants, bars and other businesses to slow the spread of the virus. Vice President Mike Pence said the administration will announce more broad recommendations on any closures Monday. 

President Trump tried to reassure the nation in a news conference Sunday afternoon that his administration is on top of the crisis, and tweeted that everyone is "so well unified." 

"Everybody is so well unified and working so hard," the president tweeted Monday morning. "It is a beautiful thing to see. They love our great Country. We will end up being stronger than ever before!"

Sara Cook and Olivia Gazis contributed to this report. 

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