Ransomware Can Put Healthcare Providers — And Patients — in Critical Condition

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A healthcare organization can find itself in critical condition if attacked by ransomware — a type of malware that prevents or limits users from accessing their files unless a ransom is paid.

Verizon’s 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report discovered that ransomware accounts for 85 percent of all malware targeting the healthcare industry. Ransomware attacks have been numerous in hospitals and other health facilities recently, and the consequences can be dire for providers and patients, who are denied access to their files and cannot receive the care they need.

“Many healthcare offices are not prepared to combat cyber attacks,” says Alex Zlatin, CEO of Maxim Software Systems and author of Responsible Dental Ownership (alexzlatin.com). “It can be a life-or-death situation if they can’t access data. So, they are more likely to pay up.

“Healthcare organizations are prime targets because of all the patients’ personal information they have to offer cyber criminals. It’s imperative they get up to speed on how to prevent such a nightmare scenario and know how to deal with a ransomware attack quickly.”

Zlatin offers ways for healthcare organizations to prevent or reduce the risks of ransomware attacks, and how they should respond if infected:

If attacked by ransomware

Isolate the infected computer immediately. “Infected systems should be removed from the network as soon as possible to prevent ransomware from attacking network or shared drives,” Zlatin says.

Isolate or power-off affected devices. Those devices that have not been completely corrupted should shut down or be isolated. Zlatin says this can provide time to recover data and contain the damage.

Secure backup data or systems by taking them offline. “You’ll want to ensure backups are free of malware before using them to restore inaccessible data,” Zlatin says.

Change online account passwords and network passwords. “After removing the system from the network, do this, and change all system passwords once the malware is removed,” Zlatin says.

To prevent attacks and mitigate risks

Train employees on cyber hygiene. “This is a healthcare organization’s best defense against ransomware,” Zlatin says. “Cyber hygiene is not putting yourself in a situation where you’re surrounded by malicious links — like surfing the internet for personal reasons, opening emails from unfamiliar sources, going on Facebook or checking your Twitter feed from a workstation.”



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