Ransomware attacks on hospitals are not uncommon. A 2020 report by IBM titled “Security: Cost of Data Breach,” showed that healthcare companies have fallen victim to the largest security breaches on record for the past six years running. Why? Because hospital ransomware attacks can be profitable for criminals.
Patient data is of the most sensitive nature. And, if you don’t know how to protect from ransomware attacks, this data is easy to steal, resulting in potentially fatal consequences. For this reason, we have put together our top 5 no-sweat ways to protect your hospital or medical practice from ransomware attacks.
What are ransomware attacks?
First and foremost, it is crucial that you understand what hospital ransomware attacks are. This way, you are better equipped to follow our easy-peasy tips on how to protect from these ransomware attacks.
Put simply, a ransomware attack is a form of cyberattack that aims to take control of your computer and either block access to files or encrypt data. This is done silently and without your noticing until you try to access a file or log into a program, at which point, a “ransom note” will pop up. This note is typically a threat that demands payment in exchange for the release of your files so that you can regain control of them. Essentially, at this stage, you are being held to ransom.
There are two main types of hospital ransomware attacks—“crypto” attacks and “locker” attacks. Crypto attacks encrypt your data and files and make it impossible for you to access them, while locker ransomware attacks will stop you from being able to use your computer altogether. In some cases, with every click of the mouse, you’ll receive another menacing pop up.
These attacks can be dangerous in any setting—especially in the realm of healthcare, as the data that is handled in hospitals and other practices is so sensitive. However, now that you know what hospital ransomware attacks are, you can begin implementing the following practices to avoid them:
1. Update your computer and back up your files.
Vulnerable applications and operating systems are the targets of most ransomware attacks. So, if your computer signals that it needs to update something, don’t hit snooze. Instead, have a coffee break and let your computer update itself when it needs to. Make sure you also regularly back up your data to a removable drive or the cloud.
2. Teach your employees about phishing emails.
Some links can look harmless, especially if they’ve been sent to you from a source you trust. However, criminals are crafty and often make malicious links look almost identical to legitimate site links. In some cases, just one letter alteration can send you off to a completely different domain that then infects your computer. Train your employees to check that links are authentic before clicking on them. If in doubt, use Google to search for the site rather than clicking a link directly.
3. Open email attachments cautiously.
Compressed files (or ZIP files) are typically the main vehicles for virus infections. If you have received a file of this type or similar, check that you are expecting to receive it and that it has come from a trusted source before opening it or downloading it to your device.
4. Keep your personal data safe.
5. Invest in a ransomware attack data recovery plan.
Ransomware attacks are silent and can spread rapidly. This is why it’s crucial to have a disaster recovery backup plan in place even before you suspect a ransomware attack; this way, your compromised data is more likely to be recoverable. It’s also a good idea to have regular drills to make sure the disaster recovery plan can be implemented immediately at the first hint of a ransomware attack.
Why is it so important to fight against ransomware attacks?
Simply put, ransomware attacks can have terrible consequences for both patients and the hospitals they visit. Not knowing how to protect from ransomware attacks could put a hospital into downtime for a very long period. The year 2019 alone saw a 750% increase in ransomware attacks, with trillions paid out to criminals who hijack data.
With COVID-19 now causing disruption to hospitals across the world, 2020-2021 will offer prime opportunities for criminals to steal vital data. So, as patients put their trust in hospitals for their data to be kept safe, it is, therefore, the hospitals’ responsibility to take proactive steps; it is their responsibility to ensure that all data is protected and that a ransomware attack data recovery plan can save this data, should an attack take place. Remember, ransomware attacks can cause financial implications for your business, but more importantly, they can put your already vulnerable patients at further risk.
Scale Technology can help.
COVID-19 has created a busier schedule for hospital employees than has ever been seen before. However, during this health pandemic, we want you to focus on what you do best. Worrying about cyber threats is our job, not yours.
At Scale Technology, we can give you the best guidance on ransomware protection, as well as other useful methods that will help keep patient data safe. We can also monitor your healthcare IT solutions to ensure best practices in healthcare security. Give us a call at 501-213-3298, or contact us online today and let us take care of these security threats for you.