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Cyberattacks on Healthcare Organizations

Monday, May 15, 2017  
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Cyberattacks on Healthcare Organizations

  • Published on May 13, 2017

Donna Vanderpool, MBA, JD

FollowDonna Vanderpool, MBA, JD

VP, Risk Management at PRMS,

Specialists in Professional Liability Insurance Programs

Useful information from OCR’s Privacy and Security Listservs –

From HHS (5/12/17):

HHS is aware of a significant cyber security issue in the UK and other international locations affecting hospitals and healthcare information systems. We are also aware that there is evidence of this attack occurring inside the United States. We are working with our partners across government and in the private sector to develop a better understanding of the threat and to provide additional information on measures to protect your systems. We advise that you continue to exercise cyber security best practices – particularly with respect to email.

  From Homeland Security (5/13/17):

US-CERT has received multiple reports of WannaCry ransomware infections in several countries around the world. Ransomware is a type of malicious software that infects a computer and restricts users’ access to it until a ransom is paid to unlock it. Individuals and organizations are discouraged from paying the ransom, as this does not guarantee access will be restored.

Ransomware spreads easily when it encounters unpatched or outdated software. The WannaCry ransomware may be exploiting a vulnerability in Server Message Block 1.0 (SMBv1). For information on how to mitigate this vulnerability, review the US-CERT article on Microsoft SMBv1 Vulnerability and the Microsoft Security Bulletin MS17-010. Users and administrators are encouraged to review the US-CERT Alert TA16-091A to learn how to best protect against ransomware. Please report any ransomware incidents to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

  More from HHS (5/13/17):

How can I help protect myself from email-based ransomware attacks?

Ransomware can be delivered via email by attachments or links within the email. Attachments in emails can include documents, zip files, and executable applications. Malicious links in emails can link directly to a malicious website the attacker uses to place malware on a system. To help protect yourself, be aware of the following:

  • Only open up emails from people you know and that you are expecting. The attacker can impersonate the sender, or the computer belonging to someone you know may be infected without his or her knowledge.
  • Don’t click on links in emails if you weren’t expecting them – the attacker could camouflage a malicious link to make it look like it is for your bank, for example.
  • Keep your computer and antivirus up to date – this adds another layer of defense that could stop the malware.

How can I help protect myself from open RDP ransomware attacks?

Recently, attackers have been scanning the Internet for Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) servers open to the Internet. Once connected, an attacker can try to guess passwords for users on the system, or look for backdoors giving them access. Once in, it is just like they are logged onto the system from a monitor and keyboard. To help protect yourself, be aware of the following:

  • If you do not need RDP, disable the service on the computer. There are several ways of doing this based on which version of Microsoft Windows you are using.
  • If RDP is needed, only allow network access where needed. Block other network connections using Access Control Lists or firewalls, and especially from any address on the Internet.
  • To find which version of Microsoft you are using: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/13443/windows-which-operating-system

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