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The healthcare sector is under attack from cybercriminals demanding exorbitant ransom fees. Ransomware in the healthcare sector is increasingly becoming more prevalent, leading to a unique set of problems for stakeholders in this industry. If a ransomware attack is successful against a health care service provider, the damage can be very severe. Why are ransomware attacks more prevalent in the healthcare sector? How can these cyberattacks be prevented? Here is all you need to know about ransomware in the health sector.

Poor security hygiene

Healthcare service providers tend to have poor security hygiene, making it easier for attackers to deploy ransomware attacks on their servers. Advanced security procedures like implementing multi-factor authentication can help with reducing the impact of ransomware attacks in this sector. 

Unfortunately, using updated security procedures is not the priority for most hospitals that have not survived a ransomware attack. At the same time, healthcare service providers are not being trained about potential ransomware attacks. This makes healthcare service providers more susceptible to social engineering attacks that could lead to a ransomware attack. 

The poor security hygiene within this industry attracts cyberattackers to infect organizations with ransomware. Implementing good security hygiene could potentially prevent ransomware attacks introduced to the system through social engineering tactics. Additionally, the heightened security will improve the confidence of patients and hospital staff.

Healthcare providers are easier targets

The sad truth is that healthcare providers are easier targets for ransomware attackers. Hospitals and clinics primarily focus on saving lives while improving their physical infrastructure. They do not pay much attention to how to prevent ransomware and the necessary steps needed to contain an attack. Some organizations in other industries negotiate ransomware fees to lower prices. 

Most healthcare providers do not have the luxury of facilitating these negotiations. The downtime of healthcare systems could be detrimental to patients and the organization. Therefore, out of panic and due to the time-sensitivity of this issue, healthcare providers pay the high ransom fees. 

Ransomware attackers know the importance of hospitals and clinics. They understand that a ransomware attack against these organizations will be less trouble as they’ll most likely play ball instead of resisting their demands.

Challenges with backing up data

Unlike various online businesses, stakeholders in the healthcare industry are facing challenges with backing up data. Cloud-based storage solutions are mostly the easiest way of backing up data sets, but this is a challenge for healthcare providers. HIPAA has some restrictions on backing up customer data on most easily accessible cloud-based solutions. 

The restrictions imposed on cloud-based data backups are a challenge for healthcare providers. This means that some healthcare providers can’t back up their data which increases the chances of ransomware attackers getting their demanded fee. 

Data breaches are more prevalent in organizations that do not have backups. Paying the ransom is their only option, and they do not have a bargaining chip. Due to this, the healthcare sector is also perceived as an easy target for ransomware attacks.

Outdated technologies

In addition to the reasons mentioned above, ransomware attacks are more prevalent in the healthcare sector because of using outdated technologies. It is no lie that many hospitals rely on outdated technologies to power their systems. For example, one successful ransomware attack was caused by using an outdated server system. 

Ransomware attackers demanded $17,000 from the hospital after discovering that the hospital’s system was powered by JBoss. The JBoss server system was last updated in 2012, making it a very vulnerable system. 

The attackers, in this case, used an open-source tool called JexBoss that identifies systems that are online that use JBoss. From that reconnaissance, attackers carefully crafted a ransomware attack injected directly into the system server. Other healthcare providers also use outdated technologies that pose a risk for successful ransomware attacks. This is why attackers frequent the healthcare sector for these kinds of attacks.

Impact of ransomware on hospitals

Hospitals suffer a great deal from successful ransomware attacks. Once the ransomware starts permeating the network, workstations are rendered useless. The hospital staff is unable to retrieve patient records and can’t administer medical assistance immediately. 

In some ransomware cases, hospitals were forced to redirect any incoming traffic to other facilities. This causes more medical complications and even increases patient mortality rates. While the attack is being attended to, doctors and nurses use paper systems to record information. 

Once the system is back online, all the paper records need to be updated to the digital platform being used. The money that could have been used to modernize the hospital’s infrastructure is invested toward paying the ransom. As a result, the hospital’s progress recedes in the event of a successful ransomware attack.

Exploits used by attackers

Social engineering remains one of the leading origins of ransomware attacks. The ransomware is introduced to the system through one computer and spreads across that healthcare provider’s network. This is a classic approach that is gradually becoming outdated. 

Currently, the most common attacks on healthcare providers are more complex and surgical. They are injected right into the system server with complex encryption keys that are hard to decipher. Additionally, a new industry is on an uprise that allows any random person to launch an attack against healthcare providers. 

The Ransomware as a Service (RaaS) field makes it easier for attackers to launch an attack. This service does not require any technical skill or acumen to launch, which increases the risk facing healthcare providers.

How to defend healthcare providers from ransomware?

Healthcare providers can prevent ransomware attacks by implementing high-end AI-powered security tools. The security tools should have the potential to prevent even the most hidden attacks. For example, social engineering attacks can be prevented using email scanning tools. 

Normal scanning tools do not have the capacity to assess domains, attachments, and origin sources. An AI-powered email scanning tool can do this within seconds. Before healthcare workers open any email, it can either be marked as safe or suspicious. 

This will allow healthcare workers to make an informed decision regarding that particular email. There are other tools that can be used parallel to this one to prevent ransomware from spreading across healthcare systems.

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