Hospital Ransomware: Why Healthcare Is Being Targeted and How To Protect Your Systems


ransomwareYour patient’s data and financial security are at risk. Hackers have started to besiege hospitals with cyber-attacks in an attempt to steal money and personal information. With the pandemic packing hospitals to the brim, the rate of attacks is climbing higher still.

However, this leaves us with two questions. Why are healthcare organizations getting targeted, and how can they protect themselves?

Well, the time for action is here. We are here to present you with this guide to hospital ransomware and how to keep your clients safe from a targeted attack.

Before that, let’s take a look at why hospitals are getting targeted.

Why Attack Healthcare Organizations?

So why have hackers doubled down on healthcare organizations? They have got caches of information hackers want (people’s info) stored in one neat place, for starters. Doctors also place a great emphasis on accessing data remotely, which leaves it more vulnerable than if they were accessing the same data on-site.

Plus, many healthcare workers operate in-the-moment, sending data as soon as it is needed. They do not have the time to consider how to encode a document, nor do they have the time to get the proper training on how to do so. When they do not take that responsibility, the IT department has to.

However, consider how many devices with Internet access there are in a single hospital. Any IT department would have a hard time keeping up with all the devices present. Plus, introducing any new software could cause delays in the healthcare worker’s job, which could mean the difference between life and death for someone.

That is also why ransomware is a popular form of attack here. After all, there is more pressure to pay the ransom to get your data back if it concerns a medical emergency. However, there is no guarantee you will even get the data back once the ransom’s paid.

Lacking Backup

Finally, it becomes a matter of budget. While big-name hospitals have the cash to fortify themselves to the teeth with computer security, the smaller ones do not have that kind of protection. Hackers can then break into the less-protected small ones and use them as back doors to get to the files held by the big names.

Finally, hospitals often do not have the time to swap out their older technology for newer models. This leads to them using outdated tech and software that hackers have an easier time exploiting. Couple that with the fact that medical technology is not built with security in mind (prioritizing functionality instead), and it is no wonder hospitals are a big target.

Protecting Hospitals From Ransomware

So if hospitals are getting hammered left and right with cyber-attacks, how can they defend themselves?

Well, a great first step to take is making sure that there are backups of your data across multiple devices. The general rule of thumb with data security is to have 3 backup copies of a file. You store two of these copies on a non-primary device on-site, and one of the copies somewhere off-site.

You can also add extra security to this step by utilizing a cloud service to store your data off-site. Cloud services are more secure than on-site servers thanks to their remote nature, but they are not invincible. You will still need to work with whatever cloud service company you collaborate with to make sure your data’s locked down tight.

If you do use a cloud service, considering asking them about using immutable buckets for your data. These are special caches that will prevent all alterations to data you place inside for a set period, including deletion.

On the downside, these caches also lock you out of making any alterations. However, these are some of the most secure ways to keep data out of the hands of cyber-criminals.

Managing your passwords is another great step you can take. Using strong passwords (letters, numbers, symbols, lots of characters) and changing them for different devices keeps hackers from getting one password and being able to steamroll through all your stuff.

Multi-factor authentication is also a great hacker deterrent. This process involves signing in on two different devices to access an account. If a hacker does not have that second device, they have a much harder time tricking the system into letting them in.

Another perk of multi-factor authentication is that it removes some of the stress from your IT department. It does this by tying everything to one set of login info (without the normal security gaps that causes) while often allowing users to edit that info themselves without contacting technical support.

More Protection? Why Not?

Another way to keep your data safe is to remind and educate your employees about proper cybersecurity policy. This means they should run all transmissions of secure data through a VPN (virtual private network) and make sure all data they receive comes through one as well.

Teaching your employees how to spot dangerous emails is another essential tip. Encourage them to stay away from any emails they don’t recognize or require them to log in. Put up some sort of screener that can detect emails sent from unauthorized users or which contain suspicious files and destroy them.

You should also set up some sort of account they can report the email to so your IT department can log the incident and adjust their defenses.

Finally, work with your IT department to segment your networks. This option means that different networks will run along different “lines”, which allows one to get shut down without affecting the rest.

This way, if you detect a hacker messing around with one of your lines, you can lock them out from the rest of your network.

Maximum Protection

And there you have it! Now that you know all about why hospitals get targeted by ransomware attacks and how to protect them from these attacks, you’re ready to go about your work helping people without fear of attack! And if you want to get started on setting up security today, be sure to reach out to us and let us know how we can help!

Sagacent Technologies offers technology management and support, including proactive/preventative maintenance, onsite and offsite data back-ups, network and security audits, mobility solutions, disaster planning, and emergency business resumption services. The company serves clients of 10 to 150 employees within the Silicon Valley region.