Cyber criminals targeting hospitals with ransomware to extort money

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By Edd K. Usman

Hospitals around the world, including in the Philippines, must put together a strong cybersecurity platform because cyber criminals have been targeting the healthcare industry, medical institutions included, to extort money.

info theft

McAfee Labs of Intel Security said in its “Threats Report” in 2016 that hospitals are being targeted because of the following reasons:

? They have legacy systems that are vulnerable to attack;
? Their medical devices are also weak, or have no provision for security at all; and
? They need immediate and unhampered access to their patients’ medical information, leaving the system susceptible to attack.

The report said 19 hospitals were hit by ransomware attacks in the first and second quarters of this year.

One unnamed hospital in California was forced by cyber criminals to pay $17,000 to get back access to its files and systems encrypted through ransomware, but not after suffering a downtime of five working days.

Further, Intel Security also uncovered that targeted attacks on hospitals had made around $100,000 paid as ransom.

Intel Security’s McAfee Labs detailed how cyber criminals conduct their attacks on hospitals.

The first stage is the distribution of ransomware through emails with attachment; second, infection; third, communication; fourth, encryption of the targeted hospital’s files to make it inaccessible; fifth, cyber criminal declaring a ransom demand in exchange for access to the files; and, sixth, the ransomware spreading laterally to the hospital’s other systems.

The tech firm also indicated that the healthcare and manufacturing sectors belong to the “least prepared to prevent data loss” and that over 25 percent of companies covered by the survey “do not monitor sharing of or access to employee or customer data.”

Further, Intel Security said only 37 organizations under the survey utilized “end-point monitoring of user activity and physical media activity.”

Vincent Weafer, vice president for Intel Security’s McAfee Labs, said hospitals are targeted because of their “combination of relatively weak data security, complex environment, and the urgent need for access to data sources.”

“The new revelations around the scale of ransomware networks and the emerging focus on hospitals remind us that the cybercrime economy has the capacity and motivation to exploit new industry sectors,” he said.

For the Q2 threat activity, McAfee Labs discovered 316 threats a minute, which translates to over five every second.

There were also significant spikes in ransomware (1.3 million new malware a minute), mobile malware (about two million new malware), and macro malware (over 200 percent rise in new downloader Trojans such as Necurs and Dridex which spread the Locky ransomware.

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