Nearly Nine in Ten Ransomware Attacks Target Hospitals

Ransomware is a serious threat to computer users and corporations around the world. But very few people are aware of how coordinated these attacks can be. For example, eight in ten ransomware distribution attacks target hospitals specifically. Those are the findings of the Solutionary Security Engineering Research Team.

Hospitals Are Often Targeted During Ransomware Attacks

The primary objective of a ransomware distribution campaign is to infect as many devices as possible. With so many different types of malware in existence today, security researchers have a hard time coming up with countermeasures. In most cases, a free decryption utility will exist, but only after the ransomware in question has been wreaking havoc for weeks or months on end.

Most people will remember the ransomware attacks which shut down several hospitals around the world. The Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital ended up paying a US$17,000 fee just to have their systems restored after such an attack. But they were not the only ones to deal with ransomware, as healthcare industries are a favorite target for internet criminals.

The reason for this is simple” healthcare institutions have little to no IT security. Most of these premises are dealing with receding budgets, and IT security is one of the first budget cuts on nearly every hospital’s list. Internet criminals are well aware of this problem, and try to exploit it by any means necessary.

To put this into perspective: a lot of hospitals are dealing with older computer hardware and software. Versions of Windows XP and Windows 7 are still found rather often, and downloading security patches happens very rarely. Furthermore, hospitals and other healthcare institutions are dealing with a personnel shortage. This also means their on-hand IT staff is usually limited to one or two individuals. It goes without saying those people are in over their head when a ransomware attack hits.

Making matters worse is how the general hospital staff seems very IT-illiterate these days. Successful malware attacks only occur due to human error by clicking a malicious link or opening an infected email attachment. All of these problems could easily be prevented by training staff, yet due to the stressful situation they find themselves in, that is much easier said than done.

A new survey by the Solutionary Security Engineering Research Team showed how 88% of all ransomware attacks in Q2 2016 were targeting hospitals. Interestingly enough, nearly all of these threats use the same type of ransomware, which is known as CryptoWall. Even though this ransomware strain has been around for awhile own, it is still a very dangerous type of malware that can cause serious damage to computers and networks.

The report also mentions the following:

“The most important steps in protecting your company’s and your customers’ data from the growing malicious ransomware onslaught are ensuring that you have a robust backup and recovery process, and that your security software is up-to-date and able to detect the most recent ransomware variants. As the threat continues to evolve, it will be crucial for organizations to have defined incident-response procedures and proper detective and preventive controls in place to reduce ransomware’s impact.”

It is evident for everyone to see the healthcare industry has its work cut out for them. Dealing with ransomware attacks is a strenuous ordeal, and taking preventive measures is more important than ever before. Then again, that will be much easier said than done, as it will cost money, time, and effort to come up with proper safeguards.

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