Why are we so accepting of healthcare ransomware attacks?
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
We're so accepting, as a culture.
Because of the age in which we live, one such issue we seem to have openly accepted is ransomware's ever-increasing influence over healthcare. We seem to have resigned ourselves to the fact that these attacks by cybercriminals on our data are simply a mainstream inconvenience of the modern day.
According to CSO, a computer and technology security news site, in just a short amount of time, ransomware has grown from fringe cyberattacks to a widespread epidemic across all industries — but, most importantly, healthcare is being hit the hardest. In the first quarter of 2016, researchers at Symantec saw an average of 4,000 ransomware attacks per day.
Of course, the attacks are damaging, crippling entire healthcare systems sometimes for days. The thieves recognize both the value and the vulnerabilities of healthcare information and security gaps that exist in the connected world.
Unfortunately, attackers continue to evolve in an effort to stay ahead of the security professionals — delivering different types of ransomware variants that help them avoid being detected. Ransomware has been around since 1989, but attacks are more common now because of their success.
Specifically, in 2015, more than 362,000 ransomware variants were identified, an average of nearly 1,000 new variants per day. And recent research finds that 85 percent of IT professionals have been or expect to be hit with ransomware at some point in time at their organization.
The Ponemon Institute found that unplanned downtime at healthcare organizations may cost an average of $7,900 a minute, per incident. Since attackers view healthcare providers as such easy targets, it's now critical to understand how ransomware works, how to respond to it and how it can be avoided to begin with.
What are some of the organizations hit so far this year with ransomware attacks? There are a bunch. According to Healthcare IT News, the New Jersey Spine Center and the Marin Healthcare District in California reported attacks. Both paid the demanded ransom. The Marin facility had its health billing and medical records vendor attacked.
Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital experienced more than a week of downtime disruption of services that were critical for keeping the hospital system up and running, as reported much earlier this year.
There are many more. The Urgent Care Clinic of Oxford, Mississippi, was attacked by Russians. Its servers were breached. Also, the University of Southern California's Keck and Norris hospital had isolated ransomware attacks on its servers with files made inaccessible. Eventually, data was restored, and the hospitals did not pay the ransom.
Kansas Heart Hospital fell in May. It made the demanded payment and was hit with a second demand for more money. It didn't pay. Some of the data was never unlocked, and the hospital moved on.
King's Daughters' Health's employee files were hit. Using manual processes, it moved on, containing the breach.
Washington, D.C.'s MedStar Health saw its information locked down, and criminals asked for about $20,000 to unlock the data. The health system did not close down during the attack. Another California health system, Chino Valley Medical Center and Desert Valley Hospital, was hacked. The hospital did not pay the ransom nor was patient data lost.
There are many other examples, but those detailed here show what we are beginning to understand: That health centers and systems are increasingly coming under attack. Ransom attacks will continue to be a major business, and — according to the research — will only likely grow dramatically as more time passes.
Is this just something we're going to accept?
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