Cyberattacks on hospitals become an urgent issue amid record COVID-19 totals


dmchannelsng | Pixabay

Rachel Dalloo

As coronavirus cases continue to increase across the nation, the number of cyberattacks targeted towards hospitals and healthcare institutions have also increased, causing dangerous disruptions to services that patients are receiving.

Hackers are targeting the health care industry for ransom payments in the million dollar range. Government officials have stated that hackers are also seeking to take control of data from patients.

The hackers are supposedly the same Russian influencers who many officials fear had something to do with the outside interference in the 2020 general election. Hospitals within New York State and some on the West Coast recently reported cyberattacks, but expressed that those who are in critical condition were not affected, according to The New York Times.

The FBI said in a statement they have collected enough credible information to prove the cyberthreats against hospitals and health care providers in the United States. Some hackers attempted to steal confidential information from patients and interrupt services.

There are approximately five U.S. hospitals that have already been affected and possibly more hospital and health care centers that could potentially be targeted, according to the Associated Press. Additionally, four health care institutions have been victims of ransomware. Some of the institutions that have been affected by the cyberattacks are the St. Lawrence Health System in upstate New York and the Sky Lakes Medical Center in Klamath Falls, Oregon.

The Sky Lakes Medical center reassured that they had no evidence that patient care and confidentiality had been compromised, and that their emergency center and urgent care is open and available to visitors who are injured. The St. Lawrence Health System also noted that no data from their employees seemed to have been tampered with.

Many agencies stated that the hackers are currently using a ransomware called “Ryuk.” This network is a malicious software that encrypts data and keeps it stored away. Ryuk is similar to the commonly known malware “Trickbot,” which infects computers in order to steal classified data, disrupt health care services and rob money from health care facilities. The hijacking of information often cripples the online platforms many organizations use, forcing them to pay millions of dollars in order to restore their services back to normal.

Agencies within the FBI have advised that healthcare workers ensure their software systems are regularly updated, back up information and make sure to monitor who is granted access to certain programs through their systems. The FBI said that the ransomware attacks have been increasing for several years, specifically against hospitals, schools, state and local governments and law enforcement.

One tip officials have stated to the general public is not to pay ransoms. It will not help to retrieve any data that has been stolen by the hackers. If any money is paid to these hackers, it could assist them in carrying out future attacks, according to the NPR.