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Healthcare In the Crosshairs: Saving Coronavirus Patients While Ransomware Attacks Surge

Published: October 17, 2020 on our newsletter Security Fraud News & Alerts Newsletter.

During the coronavirus outbreak, hospitals and healthcare groups are fighting the “Hero Battle” for their patients. But a hospital’s ability to save lives is complicated by an increase in ransomware attacks since the coronavirus pandemic started. Hospitals and other healthcare support have long been the target of ransomware, but the situation has gotten worse since January of this year. The coronavirus outbreak is feeding an increase in ransomware attacks against healthcare and many cybersecurity experts agree they may have created the perfect storm.

Hackers gravitate to healthcare because it’s a vulnerable and lucrative target, and one that’s likely to be paid. A ransomware attack locks network access and demands payment to return data. Hackers know lives are literally at risk when a patient’s files are encrypted. In fact, they’re counting on it to cash in. And even if a hospital pays the ransom, there’s no guarantee bad actors will keep their promise and unlock the data.

The “WannaCry” ransomware virus encrypted over 300,000 computer systems throughout the world, including an epic attack on the United Kingdom’s (UK) healthcare industry. About sixteen of the UK’s hospitals were shut down after their National Health Service (NHS) was targeted. The NHS paid an estimated $112 million price tag to recover; the potential cost to patient lives is unknown.

The crossroads between the pandemic, ransomware and healthcare systems means keeping data safe is more important than ever. If updating older system equipment isn’t possible, other practices can help add layers of security. A well-trained and aware IT department is especially important, and they should always keep software updated and patched. Having a cyber-educated staff who can identify and stop email phishing can keep ransomware from taking root to begin with. Another big ransomware foe is performing regular backups of system data. That way, if healthcare data gets caught for ransom, most or all of it needed to function can be replaced by the victims themselves–no ransom payment required!

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