Ransomware Targets Hospitals Yet Again

Only months after the WannaCry ransomware attack caused chaos at hospitals in the United Kingdom, another strain of ransomware has cybersecurity experts on high alert—and once again, health care organizations are its main target. As Healthcare IT NewsFierce Healthcare, and others first reported, a virus called Defray is making the rounds, and is specifically tailoring its attacks toward hospitals and educational institutions. While there have only been two known attacks involving it as of now, experts are concerned that Defray is part of “a trend of more frequent targeting in ransomware attacks,” as one team of cybersecurity analysts point out.

Per those analysts at the firm Proofpoint, who discovered (and christened) the strain, Defray is spread via “phishing” e-mails; a Microsoft Word attachment to the e-mails is infected with the virus, and the victim later receives a “ransom note” demanding $5,000 for the recovery of his or her damaged files. What differentiates Defray from WannaCry and other attacks, however, is the degree to which messages are “custom crafted to appeal to” their recipients, and the way in which attackers appear able to make messages appear that they’re from trusted sources. The Proofpoint blog post, for example, highlights an infected attachment entitled “Patient Report” that was sent to a recipient at a UK hospital; the document even includes the hospital’s logo. For their part, Proofpoint researchers have promised to keep abreast of the situation. “We will continue to monitor this threat and provide updates as new information emerges,” they noted in the blog post.

As we noted earlier this summer, in the wake of WannaCry and large-scale data breaches that have dominated headlines, experts are urging health care organizations to double down on their commitment to cybersecurity, with some analysts asserting that they have failed to adequately prioritize it. In a column published in Hospitals and Health Networks Magazine, for example, health care analyst Paul Keckley, noting that hospitals are prime targets for cyber thieves, outlined a series of tips for organizations seeking to defend against ransomware attackers. Among them: Keep operating systems constantly updated, work with staff on cybersecurity best practices, and continuously back up all important files.

Click here to read the article from Healthcare IT News on the new ransomware strain.

Click here to read the article from Fierce Healthcare on the new ransomware strain.

Click here to read the blog post from Proofpoint on the new strain.

 

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