Petya-Like Ransomware Hits U.S. Healthcare Providers

It might seem odd at first, but the biggest problem plaguing hospitals and healthcare providers isn't a deadly disease or an influx of sick patients, but rather an outpouring of sick machines. Hackers and cybercriminals are spreading malware to infect, corrupt and extort healthcare organizations.

Sadly, this problem is expected to get worse over time. Keeping this in mind, recent ransomware attacks should be a wake-up call for medical providers around the world.

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To Petya or NotPetya?
June's NotPetya ransomware attacks startled a lot of businesses. The malware targets Microsoft Windows-based devices, infects the master boot record and prevents the system from booting. While the majority of victims were located in Russia and Ukraine, reported infections also came out of France, German, Italy, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Looking at the issues stateside, NotPetya infected:

  • Pennsylvania's Heritage Valley Health System resulting in computer system shutdowns in both its hospitals and satellite facilities, delaying non-urgent medical procedures and closing 14 community facilities.
  • West Virginia's Princeton Community Hospital which caused many of the hospital's computers to be taken out of action. No word on whether patient health information was accessed.
  • Merck, a New Jersey-based pharmaceutical firm, sent many of its employees home and demanded that workers not turn on their computers for fear of spreading the malware even further.

For those who are wondering, NotPetya is similar to the Petya family of malware discovered in 2016. However, NotPetya has a few differences in operations. The worst of its modifications is that is cannot revert its own changes to the master boot record and therefore causes permanent damages to the device.

Of course, Petya and NotPetya are not the only forms of ransomware plaguing medical facilities. Cybercriminals have access to literally dozens of ransomware families available through the dark net.

Resisting Ransomware
But just because ransomware is on the rise doesn't mean you have to leave yourself open to attack. Below are a few tactics to steer your organization clear from cyber extortion:

  • Avoid spam emails, attachments, links and suspicious downloads as these often contain hidden malware.
  • Employ a network firewall with the latest security updates to block malicious attacks.
  • If ransomware is discovered on one or more devices, be sure to take these computers offline as quickly as possible to prevent further infection.
  • Do not pay the ransom. There is no guarantee that the hackers will (or even can) remove the malignant encryption from your devices or network.
  • Report the incident to your cyber insurance provider and the proper authorities. Information sharing is important to a robust cybersecurity community in the fight against digital crime.
  • Inspect the network following an attack to see if any data was stolen, as some ransomware attacks are merely a smoke screen for healthcare data breaches.

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