The new wave of hacking attempts hitting hospitals: 6 things to know

Accelerated by the pandemic, hospitals are facing a growing number of cyberattacks coming from ransomware gangs, financial scammers and hackers backed by nation-states, according to a Feb. 2 Wall Street Journal report. 

"The logs and the graphs show, oh, man, these have ramped up, it's hard to deny that," said Christopher Stroud, technology manager at North Platte, Neb.-based Great Plains Health, according to the report. 

Six things to know: 

1. Great Plains Health, which serves about 183,000 patients each month, said it typically blocks around 10,000 attempts to access its servers daily. However, after the hospital began its first COVID-19 antibody drug trials in November, that number tripled on average and some days reached up to 70,000 attempts. 

2. Nation-state-backed hackers and cybercriminals are also trying to infiltrate healthcare systems and steal vaccine-related research and other information, according to warnings from intelligence agencies in the U.S., Europe and Canada. 

3. The hacking attempts on the healthcare industry began to rise last year as the effects of the pandemic set in, with expanding remote workforces and hospitals setting up makeshift sites for testing and vaccinations. In 2020, 1 million people were affected almost every month by data breaches at healthcare organizations, according to HHS data. 

4. When hospitals' revenues declined due to canceled elective procedures in response to the pandemic, many organizations were unable or unwilling to finance large-scale security projects at a time when attacks were increasing. 

5. Hackers are zeroing in on several hospital vulnerabilities, including networks, personal devices and data storage, to propel cyberattacks. Providers also often use tech and patchwork systems from third parties instead of their own technologies, which can expose them to risks in the supply chain. 

6. Security officials have made some progress on stopping some of the attacks; on Jan. 27, law enforcement officials disrupted the ransomware leak site operated by the Netwalker ransomware gang, which has been responsible for a growing number of attacks on healthcare providers including the University of California San Francisco. 


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