Medical Column

Medical Column
Accounting Today Anne Carrie holds an MBA in Healthcare Management and a BS in Marketing. She has over 12 years of combined experience in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. She has extensive experience in business development, marketing, and operations working direclty with hospitals, physician groups, and outpatient facilities. Anne writes for various healthcare organizations, medical companies, and private medical groups in areas related too: healthcare regulation, HIPAA, marketing and business development, operations, practice management and more. Her work has been published in various healthcare publications across the US.

Cyberterrorism Strikes Again

Friday, May 12, 2017, one of the world’s largest coordinated cyber-attacks unleashed its’ havoc on more than 200,000 victims in over 150 countries. Hundreds of organizations were affected including The United Kingdom’s National Health Service, FedEx, Nissan, Renault, and the Russian Interior Ministry. (1) Many UK hospitals had to cancel surgeries and send emergency room patients elsewhere. While the majority did not see extensive damage from the attack, most businesses are still dealing with the fallout. Though a security researcher was able to stop the spread of this particular ransomware, experts say it is likely the hackers will rewrite the code and release a new version of it. Therefore, the threat continues and is still very real.

Ransomware attacks have been on the rise, especially within the healthcare industry. In fact, research indicates nearly half of the hospitals in the US were attacked with ransomware from 2015 -2016. (2) Hospitals are an easy target for cybercriminals because they rely on large amounts of patient data to provide critical care. Without access to this information, operations can be significantly impacted, making them most vulnerable to attacks.

What is ransomware? Ransomware is a type of malicious software that locks a device or computer system and then demands a ransom, usually in Bitcoin, to unlock it. Ransomware has been around since the 1980’s but has been in the headlines more recently due to numerous large- scale attacks on hospitals, and businesses. (1,2)

How does it affect a computer? The malware is usually embedded in an attachment to an email or a URL that if opened downloads the malware to a computer and encrypts the hard drive, making it impossible to access or retrieve anything stored. Once they have access to the files, they demand a ransom for victims to recover their information. (1,2)

How much is a ransom? The amount varies, this particular attack demanded $300-$600. However, the federal government strongly urges victims not to pay the ransom. Payment just encourages the hackers, and there’s no guarantee they will return your data. (1,2)

How can you protect your data?

  • Individuals and small businesses- should run Windows Update to get the latest software updates. Anti-virus software helps, make sure it is up to date and scan your computer for any malicious programs. To prevent an attack from spreading, experts suggest disconnecting systems and disabling Wi-Fi. Always back up important data on your computer. One of the best preventions is never opening unfamiliar emails or attachments.
  • Large organizations- shouldapply the latest Microsoft security patches and ensure anti-virus programs are up to date. Be sure to back up all key data and scan all emails for malicious attachments. Organizations should also educate and train all employees on security awareness and how to identify malicious links or attachments that may contain viruses. (3)

References:

  1. http://money.cnn.com/2017/05/13/technology/ransomware-attack-protect-yourself/
  2. http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/researcher-finds-kill-switch-slows-down-global-ransomware-attack
  3. http://www.cnbc.com/2017/05/15/ransomware-wanncry-virus-what-to-do-to-protect.html

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