Intelligence agencies in the U.S. and the U.K. have a new warning for healthcare organizations and pharmaceutical companies; they are the targets of cyber attacks from other nations.
According to the Wall Street Journal, last week’s alert from the National Cyber Security Centre in the U.K., backed by U.S. and Canadian intelligence agencies, was direct in blaming a hacking group linked to Russian security services. The Kremlin refuted the allegations.
This latest alert followed a warning in May that hackers were actively targeting these organizations. The new cybersecurity alert warned of an extraordinary level of sophistication, including the use of custom malware, according to reports.
The heads of security at hospitals, research facilities, and drugmakers say they have been under siege for months, the WSJ reported.
Hospitals and other healthcare organizations have long been targets of hackers, but the situation has only worsened during the monthslong coronavirus pandemic.
IBM saw a 6,000% increase in spam attacks on computer networks between March and April. Wendi Whitmore, a cybersecurity expert at IBM, described the situation to USA Today as a continuous “cat and mouse” game between criminals and organizations.
Most cyber-attacks aim to get money, and the demands are increasing. Criminals were asking for $1,200 just a few years ago, Whitmore told USA Today, but “now we’re seeing ransomware demands ranging from $10,000 to $25 million.”
In March, Illinois’s Champaign-Urbana Public Health District paid a $350,000 ransom after hackers locked its files. In June, the University of California, San Francisco, announced it paid $1.14 million to hackers after several servers at its School of Medicine were locked with ransomware.
Security experts say healthcare networks are challenging to defend once hackers are inside because the systems allow for free-flowing information. They are also vulnerable to linked systems, whether it’s a supplier or a small medical facility.
“Your security is only as good as your collective security,” Dr. Titus Schleyer, a biomedical informatics professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine, told USA Today. “If you have a weak partner … all your security doesn’t help you.”
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