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Security & privacy

Major healthcare network hit by ransomware attack

Ransomware attacks are some of the most devastating hacks a business can run into. Not only do they shut down normal operations, but they can also be incredibly costly — whether the ransom is paid to hackers or not.

How much money do businesses lose on ransomware attacks? If they end up paying the ransom, the average cost is over $1 million! Tap or click here to see whether it’s worth paying the ransom during a ransomware attack.

Out of all of places that can be hit by a ransomware attack, a hospital or health facility is one of the worst. Locking down healthcare workers’ computers can put the lives of patients in jeopardy — and that’s exactly what’s happening thanks to an attack on one of the nation’s biggest healthcare providers. Here’s what’s happening, and what it means for patients.

Hackers kick people while they’re down

It’s bad enough that hospitals are over extended due to COVID-19, but ransomware attacks add insult to injury.

According to a statement by Universal Health Services, one of the nation’s largest healthcare providers, a massive ransomware attack has brought the company’s entire IT network down for the time being. UHS operates 400 facilities across the U.S., and a systemwide outage means patients at any of these facilities could be at risk.

Ransomware used in the attack is a familiar one known as Ryuk, which is responsible for several incidents in the past year. Ryuk often comes bundled with another kind of malware known as Trickbot. It’s being spread by Emotet, a massive botnet that recently reactivated. Tap or click here to see what the Emotet botnet is capable of.

In a statement, UHS claimed it was working with its IT partners to bring the systems back online, although it’s likely this process will take several days. In the meantime, UHS reassured patients it would continue to provide care safely and effectively. It also mentions that no patient or employee data appears to have been accessed or stolen.

What will happen to patients at UHS facilities?

Despite this silver lining, there’s no doubt about how serious an attack this is. A lack of working computers at a modern healthcare facility can lead to disastrous consequences for patients. In fact, German police recently opened a homicide investigation after a woman died during a hospital transfer following a ransomware attack.

If doctors aren’t able to get accurate data from patients due to computer outages, their lives could literally be endangered by this ransomware attack. Delays in critical information like lab results can result in patient deaths — and if some social media posts are to be believed, this is already happening.

This story is still developing, and we will be updating it should any new information come to light.

What should I do if I’m hit by Ryuk or similar ransomware?

Thankfully, many ransomware victims aren’t actually ordinary users but large organizations like businesses. These companies have more to lose in terms of data, which makes them more attractive targets.

To fight ransomware, some businesses pay a monthly fee for ransomware insurance. If an attack happens, these insurance groups pay the ransoms on behalf of their clients. It’s another reason why big targets like UHS are so popular.

To keep your own system safe, stick to familiar corners of the web and avoid opening strange emails or attachments. This is the primary way botnets like Emotet spread ransomware, and in most cases, you still need to let the vampire in for these hacks to affect you.

That said, ransomware websites do exist — and boy, are they nasty. Tap or click here to see an example of one.

The most important thing you can do is keep a backup of all your files. No matter what happens to your computer, your files will be safe and sound if you back them up regularly. In fact, it almost makes ransomware useless by removing the only leverage hackers have over you. Tap or click here to see how to back up your computer like a pro.

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