Cyber Schemers Target Health Care Data
Tech-based scams are a growing threat to our health data
Federal law enforcement officials recently warned that scammers are using software to disrupt hospital record-keeping—and demanding payments of up to $1 million to stop their cyberattacks. In an October 29 alert, the FBI and other agencies said these “ransomware” assaults pose an “increased and imminent cybercrime threat” to health care providers and their patients.
Russian-speaking criminals have worked together to target six hospitals and have plotted to attack hundreds more across the United States, according to the Washington Post.
The FBI describes ransomware as a type of malicious software (also known as malware) that “prevents you from accessing your computer files, systems or networks, and demands you pay a ransom for their return.” Individuals can accidentally download ransomware by clicking on an email attachment or ad, following a link, or by going to a crooked website. Typically, a victim discovers the attack when the criminal sends a computer message demanding payment.
Ransomware scams have been on the increase, affecting a range of organizations, as well as individuals. By one account, there were 966 such attacks in 2019, targeting government agencies, schools and private industry, including health care providers. The city of Atlanta, Tesla, and an array of companies in the United States and overseas have been hit.
In a joint advisory, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Health and Human Services noted that the recent attack on health care providers is especially concerning because hospitals already have their hands full contending with the Covid-19 pandemic. “The events unfolding right now have the potential to cause the loss of life, potentially across multiple hospitals,” Charles Carmakal, chief technology officer for Mandiant, a cybersecurity firm, told the Washington Post.