Several US hospitals target of ransomware attacks

CNN – Several hospitals across the United States have become the latest targets of ransomware attacks. The attacks appear to be an escalation of attacks previously launched on other medical facilities and hospitals.

The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency released a warning advisory Wednesday night regarding ransomware activity targeting health care facilities. On Twitter, CISA said “there is an imminent and increased cybercrime threat to U.S. hospitals and healthcare providers.”

“CISA, FBI, and (the Department of Health and Human Services) have credible information of an increased and imminent cybercrime threat to U.S. hospitals and healthcare providers,” the advisory stated. “CISA, FBI, and HHS are sharing this information to provide warning to healthcare providers to ensure that they take timely and reasonable precautions to protect their networks from these threats.”

Ransomware is a type of malicious software (malware) where the perpetrator encrypts and victim’s files and typically demands a ransom, restoring access to the data upon payment. The costs can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands and is usually payable in Bitcoin, a digital currency.

Since July, states including New York, Nebraska, Ohio, Missouri and Michigan have all been attacked by some form of ransomware.

A Trump administration official told CNN that over the past two days, several hospitals have been targeted. While it’s still early, they said they think the attacks may be connected. The federal government is investigating the attacks, the official said.

An expert with cybersecurity firm Mandiant said they’ve identified at least three attacks on Tuesday and one on Wednesday. Patients were diverted to other hospitals as a result.

“We are experiencing the most significant cyber security threat we’ve ever seen in the United States,” Charles Carmakal, SVP and CTO of Mandiant, said. “An Eastern European financially motivated threat actor, is deliberately targeting and disrupting U.S. hospitals, forcing them to divert patients to other healthcare providers. Patients may experience prolonged wait time to receive critical care.”

An intelligence analyst for the firm Recorded Future, Allan Liska, said his company identified at least six attacks in the last day.

It is “absolutely the biggest thing we’ve ever seen. In terms of ransomware it’s the biggest attack we’ve ever seen,” he said, adding that it’s “crushing to see so many hospitals hit at the same time.”

Ransomware can have damaging and deadly effects — at a German hospital recently, an attack crippled an IT network, resulting in the death of a woman seeking emergency treatment.

Who carried out the attacks is unknown, but overall, a large swath of hospitals have been targeted in a short period of time. The attacks arise as vulnerable hospitals continue to fight a global pandemic.

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