Hackers hold hospital hostage
- March 1, 2016
- Posted by: newhorizons
- Category: New horizons news
Hackers hold hospital hostage
2/17/2016 10:07:00 AM
A recent cyberattack on a Los Angeles hospital is showing the frightening future posed by the development of new hacking schemes. Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center was hit by a ransomware attack, a type of malware that uses encryption to lock users out of the computers they are trying to access. Hospital staff were unable to access medical records, forcing them to send patients to other facilities. On top of that, staff members were relying on handwritten notes and faxing just to keep the lines of communication open, according to the MIT Technology Review.
Although there haven't been any confirmations from hospital administrators, unconfirmed reports stated that the hackers were demanding more than $3 million to unlock the facility's computers. Regardless of the amount, paying the ransom would set a terrifying precedent for future attacks against similar organizations.
Ransomware attacks increasing
This type of attack has been growing in popularity among hackers for some time. Most cyberattacks of this nature try to keep a low profile, going after the computers of a single person rather than targeting entire organizations. A cybercriminal might demand around $500, for example, which is enough to make a profit but not enough to bankrupt an individual or potentially make them consider going to the police. Often, these hackers even pose as law enforcement officials accusing the victims of committing some crime, and demanding that they pay a fine or face jail time.
This has become such a problem that the FBI has a page devoted entirely to ransomware and the threat it poses. The FBI has found that while this malware has traditionally been distributed via email attachments, computers can also be compromised as a result of going to infected websites. What's more, the agency discovered that hackers are increasingly asking for Bitcoin rather than card payment, as is the case with the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center. Bitcoin is a lot harder to trace than a credit card transaction, allowing the cybercriminal to remain anonymous.
Perhaps the most frightening aspect of this whole topic is the fact that new pieces of ransomware are being produced at an alarming rate. The "McAfee Labs Threats Report: August 2015" found that the second quarter of 2015 saw a 58 percent increase in new ransomware samples over the previous quarter. In fact, the first quarter of 2015 witnessed more than a 200 percent increase over the last quarter of 2014.
But that's not all. In terms of total ransomware samples, rather than just new ones, McAfee discovered that hackers have been incredibly busy. By the second quarter of 2015, the cybersecurity firm observed more than 4 million ransomware samples, which was more than double the number witnessed at the same time the year before.
What all of this evidence points to is the fact that the online criminal underworld is increasingly relying on ransomware to take money from their innocent victims. There are many reasons for this, but one of the most prominent is just how easy it is. Once a hacker has control over a computer, all he has to do is wait. In fact, ransomware-as-a-service has begun to pop up in many corners of the Internet. This is where criminals hire hackers to create ransomware for them, meaning that even the most technologically ignorant crooks involve themselves in these schemes.
"You'll need to practice common sense when using the Internet."
What can the average person do?
While ransomware is certainly a scary prospect, there are a few best practices you can follow to help avoid such an attack. First and foremost, anyone with an online presence needs to be aware of how these cyberattacks occur. As stated, just going to the wrong website can infect your computer, so you'll need to practice common sense when using the Internet.
Second, you'll want to start a solid backup routine for your most important data. While this doesn't actually prevent a ransomware attack, it helps to lower the stakes in the event that one occurs. Having a hacker essentially brick your computer certainly isn't fun, but putting important files in a separate location will at least ensure that you won't lose vitally important data.
Lastly, anyone involved in IT who wants to join the fight against ransomware should consider pursuing computer based training in cybersecurity. New Horizons has a wide variety of cybersecurity certifications that can help you improve your career and work to protect innocent victims from the tyranny of cybercriminals and their ransomware attacks.