Healthcare facilities at growing risk of attack + advice

Cyber experts are warning of a looming rise in ransomware attacks targeting private and government hospital systems in the coming weeks amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Acronis cites a surge in ransomware detections in Europe by up to 7% in the last week of February, followed by a 10% increase the week after.

Despite an announcement by hacker groups that they will not target health facilities, cyber protection experts still warn to take these statements with caution. A lot of medical responders treating COVID-19 patients will be particularly targeted because they will need immediate access to data, applications, and systems; and also because they are receiving large amount of financing from governments in some countries which is attractive for cyber criminals.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it new challenges and new risks to the business environment and cyberspace is no exception. As most businesses and individuals are now required to go digital in a bid to ensure that their operations do not grind to a halt, they have also become easy targets with healthcare facilities becoming more vulnerable because the systems that care for patients and lab work are often linked.” said Serguei Beloussov, CEO of Acronis.

"A lot of hospitals and medical facilities around the world have been held at ransom since the beginning of the lockdowns. Ignoring cyber threats for a hospital is like unplugging a ventilator from a patient. Cyber threats on the healthcare system are increasing and need to be addressed with priority from our governments as the lives of the patients are on the line.”

In an effort to protect themselves from cybercriminal and sophisticated ransomware attacks during the crisis, Acronis is advising businesses and organisations to establish an anti-phishing strategy, which includes training employees to recognise malicious emails and sites or use email systems with integrated anti-phishing solutions.

Companies can also use two-factor authentication whenever possible as well as use unique passwords for different services. They should also update their systems automatically as well as deploy ransomware protection and anti-virus systems.

Another effective strategy is to make public-facing websites static. Since some companies do not need complex content management systems on their websites, pre-rendered static pages are more secure.

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