Healthcare News & Insights

Hospitals – Ransomware targets

You may not notice this every day, but hospitals and medical devices are constantly under attack.

One would expect hospitals to have robust cybersecurity strategies, however, many enterprises are still using outdated solutions. Lack of budget, resources and complicated infrastructure make hospital networks a challenge to protect. Consequently, they operate under less-than-ideal circumstances when it comes to online security and protection of their data. In this guest post, Yariv Fishman, head of product management and marketing at an IT solutions and security company, offers three things hospitals can do to protect their network, patient records and medical equipment from ransomware and other malware cyber attacks.

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Last year, the notorious ransomware Wannacry infected two Bayer medical devices and left hundreds of hospitals with paralyzed computer systems. Although this is the first time ransomware is known to have directly affected medical equipment, hospitals are all too familiar with attacks against their network.

Hospitals have proved to be lucrative targets for cybercriminals. Ransomware has the ability to hold vital medical equipment hostage. Without access to pacemakers, heart monitors, feeding tubes and more, hospitals have no choice but to pay the ransom if attacked. With infinite amounts of medical records and patient information, implementing threat prevention methods is not an insurance policy – it’s security against the inevitable.

Recently, Heritage Valley Health Systems, located in Pennsylvania, underwent a ransomware attack. Not only did the attack affect the main hospital, it also affected multiple satellite clinics. Surgical procedures were postponed and operational adjustments were put in place until the network could be brought back online. While the down time procedures left many patients frustrated, the consequences of the attack could have been much more devastating.

In response, the hospital implemented corrective measures to ensure there wouldn’t be a breach of this caliber in the future. The destructive potential of a ransomware infection in a hospital is a healthcare nightmare scenario. An infiltration is much more costly than leaked data; patients’ lives are at stake. Rather than implementing solutions after the fact, hospitals should look toward proactive methods to prevent future attacks from affecting them.

The growing use of IoT devices will likely make this attack vector an increasingly attractive target in the future. Potential ransomware can infiltrate a network through multiple avenues, the most common being human error and phishing. As IoT systems become more widespread, cybercriminals will continue to find creative ways to gain the upper hand on their victims. Although the current situation is unsettling, there are prevention measures that can help organizations avoid future attacks.

How to protect your hospital’s network

Implementing the following recommendations will help hospitals protect their network, patient records and medical equipment from ransomware and other malware cyber attacks:

  • Backup your most important files – Make an offline copy of your medical and patient records on an external device and with an online cloud service. This will protect the files not only from ransomware but also from other physical hazards, such as fires and flooding, as well. Note: external devices should be used for backup ONLY and be disconnected immediately after the backup is completed.
  • Exercise caution – While using computers or other devices, it’s often difficult to sense danger. Threat actors are constantly creating new ways to bypass security systems and infiltrate networks. Stress to employees that they shouldn’t open any emails they weren’t expecting to receive, not to click on links unless they are from a known-and-trusted source, and if they’re asked to run macros on an Office file, don’t!
  • Have a comprehensive, up-to-date, security solution – High quality security solutions and products protect networks from a variety of malware types and ransomware threats. Today’s Anti-Virus, IPS and sandboxing solutions can detect and block Office documents that contain malicious macros, and prevent many exploit kits from entering your system, and so prevent infection by the malware.

Ransomware is an increasingly popular way for threat actors to extort large sums of money, as the payments are typically made anonymously using Bitcoin wallets rather than actual bank transfers. The incentive for organizations to pay the ransom, especially hospitals, is high.

Cybercriminals are exploiting hospitals’ vulnerabilities by threatening to jeopardize patients’ well-being. As the use of IoT devices becomes more prevalent and critical to the efficient operation of public infrastructures and hospitals, all organizations should enhance their security measures in the cyber realm to protect their infrastructure, data and information from the next global attack.

Yariv Fishman is head of product management and marketing at Check Point, an IT solutions and security company.

 

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