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Crypto-Ransomware & Health Care: Protecting Your Health Care Entity

April 27th, 2016

Crypto-Ransomware is spreading through the health care industry and its results can be devastating. Medicus can protect your entity and its patients.

The healthcare industry is quickly becoming ground zero for a new wave of malware/virus attacks that threaten not just patient information security but the stability and use of entire organizations’ information systems and their ability to deliver uninterrupted care. These attacks are being carried out by a vein of viruses that have grown in popularity and effectiveness over the last few years. Called “crypto-ransomware” (https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/alerts/TA14-295A), these viruses are capable of hijacking entire networks, rendering all connected computers and drives unusable in an encrypted state until the victims pay the ransom.

Crypto-Ransomware: The Growing Threat To Health Care.

For years, these sorts of attacks were largely limited to individual users. As the creators of this malicious software have become more savvy, they have started to focus their efforts towards industries that appear to be easier targets for higher paydays. Enter: The Health Care industry. As we have discussed in recent articles, the Health Care industry has lagged behind in its introduction of effective security and encryption policies and everyone (including hackers) know it. As a result, individuals and organizations with bad intentions regularly look to exploit industry vulnerabilities in order to get access to patient records that can go upwards of $50 per record. Cisco Talos Research has revealed that there are also several new strains of crypto-ransomware that are designed to skip end users and instead attack the often times vulnerable server infrastructures themselves. End-users and servers are now being actively targeted to great effect.

The Impact of Crypto-Ransomware In The Last Month Alone On Health Care.

The results have been devastating and the impact of this increased aggression was made clear just a few weeks ago when multiple hospitals acknowledged that they had been forced to take their computer systems offline in response to network-wide crypto-ransomware infestations. One of the latest disruptions came on March 28th when MedStar Health admitted that a malware infestation had forced a shutdown of a number of systems across its Baltimore hospitals. In a Facebook post, a MedStar spokesman said,

“MedStar Health’s IT system was affected by a virus that prevents certain users from logging-in to our system. MedStar acted quickly with a decision to take down all system interfaces to prevent the virus from spreading throughout the organization. We are working with our IT and Cyber-security partners to fully assess and address the situation.”.

Ransomware was believed to have been involved in the situation.

Image: Crypto-Ransomware hits Chino Valley Medical Center in California - Medicus Solutions

MedStar was only one of the latest victims. Around the same time of the MedStar infection, Methodist Hospital in Henderson Kentucky was forced to pay a reported $17,000 ransom in order to restore their hospital systems, not including the additional man hours from IT staff. In California, Chino Valley Medical Center and Desert Valley Medical Center were forced to shut down numerous systems. According to their spokesperson their IT team was able to contain the crypto-ransomware outbreak, but it still caused significant disruptions at several other hospitals and affiliate care providers who shared systems.

What Health Care Entities Can Do To Protect Themselves

Along with safe browsing habits, Medicus Solutions recommend the use of our new Medi-Filtering service to our clients. We have negotiated terrific pricing to provide this to our clients for only $2 per user per month. This service will allow you to block those websites that are not centered around your business and can help keep your staff more productive at the same time while adding another layer of protection!

Over the past few months, our team at Medicus Solutions has also begun deploying Medi-Security – our new medical software security solution. Powered by OpenDNS, it adds another layer to security for every client. We have included this at our expense with no additional cost to our valued clients. This solution helps provide another level to attempt to block suspicious downloads which represents the traditional entry point for crypto-ransomware. While again, no solution is 100% effective, we believe this added layer of security can help with a number of scenarios. Additionally, Medicus Solutions will be rolling out a new Medi-Antivirus – our brand new medical antivirus software solution –  in the upcoming months to all clients which. It is in many ways a new, unseen level of Antivirus security and we’re very excited about it. Stay tuned for more information in the upcoming few weeks.

If you are a Medicus Solutions client and wish to have Medi-Filtering enabled on your network, please send an email to sales@msinc.com and our sales team will create a quote for you to have this deployed. If you are not a Medicus Solutions client, we’d love to talk to you about how we can help your organization increase its software and patient information security protocols and systems. We can support all major HMR systems and help your entity meet and exceed HIPAA expectations, avoiding breaches and the fallout that comes after. Read about our services and contact us today.

Final Thoughts

The reality is that every industry transitioning into broad networked services are unprepared and poorly equipped for the security challenges that are in front of them. Unlike in most industries, the stakes found in health care couldn’t be higher. Whether your health care entity partners with Medicus Solutions or not, we strongly encourage you to do everything you can to ensure the security of your organization. We encourage you to review our article on the upcoming HIPAA auditing as well to ensure your entity is meeting the expectations of the Department of Health and Human Services.

About Medicus Solutions:

Medicus Solutions, LLC (http://msinc.com/) is an Alpharetta, GA based company that specializes in providing IT management solutions to improve the efficiency, security and stability of your company’s operations. Medicus offers a range of IT services that work both independently and in unison to ensure your company operates securely, seamlessly and efficiently. Featuring secure email and backup services, virtual hosting services, HIPAA-approved file encryption systems, and much more. For more information about Medicus Solutions, please call our main office in Alpharetta at 678-495-5900 or visit our website.

Medicus Solutions writes about news, technologies, and educational topics that are defining the future of health care IT solutions and security issues at its blog: http://msinc.com/blog/