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Major Healthcare System Hit With Potentially The Largest Cyberattack in U.S. History

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8/28/2020 Major Cyberattack Reported:

Many key news outlets reported a major hospital system,  Universal Health Services Inc. (based in King of Prussia, PA), was hit with a major ransomware cyberattack over the past weekend.  United Health operates a variety of health-care facilities that include acute care hospitals, behavioral inpatient facilities, outpatient centers, emergency rooms and ambulatory care.  This attack is reported to potentially be the largest in US History, affecting more than 400 locations primarily in the United States.

Workers were forced to improvise standard protocols and even re-route critical care to other treatment centers.  The Wall Street Journal reported “The company took down systems used for medical records, laboratories and pharmacies across about 250 U.S. facilities to halt further spread of the malware attack.”   NBC reporters indicated some impacted hospitals resorted to pen and paper to record patient information.  In a statement posted to its website, the health system said it implemented extensive security protocols and “is working diligently with its security partners to restore its information technology operations as quickly as possible.” On the positive side, the company is reported to backup it’s pharmacy records every 24 hours and has already restored some network data.  That said, full recovery is yet to be determined.

With this cyberattack, Universal Health joins Montefiore Medical Center as the two major healthcare organizations that have been targeted by cybercriminals in the past two weeks.

What is Ransomware Today?

Ransomware is a destructive form of malware or data breach intended to steal credentials, publicly shame a business, steal intellectual property or leak data and threaten a company’s patrons. These attacks are regularly increasing in sophistication and clever approach techniques.  Once a threat actor has infiltrated a network, they immediately begin a full analysis to determine which data is most valuable to their victim.  They not only steal records, but also every credential they can find to maximize pressure on the victim, as well as future pain and financial gain.  Ransomware is in many cases an effective get-rich-quick scheme, so the analysis often is used to determine what files to encrypt for faster and/or higher payout.  In most cases, the hijacked data is copied and publicly exfiltrated for additional extortion.  Today’s ransomware devastation extends beyond the saving grace of backup and recovery.  According to KnowBe4’s Ransomware Hostage Rescue Manual, ransomware attacks are projected to cost organizations $20 billion in damages by 2021.

How Can Businesses Avoid Ransomware Victimization?

Focus on the solution!  There is a ton of information about the growing ransomware problem.  Unfortunately, business owners can get easily trapped focusing on the fear aspects or completely tune out the overwhelming threat landscape.

Omega Systems stands by preparatory prevention as the best means to avoid victimization.  It’s important to remember that your cybersecurity vulnerabilities are as unique as a fingerprint.  We suggest identifying your particular vulnerabilities to determine all possible ways ransomware can get in and how admin rights can be accessed.  Make sure to consider things like social engineering threats, lack of employee awareness/training, network misconfigurations, patch neglect or the use legacy software.

Here are some key strategies and suggestions to keep you focused on the solution: 

  • Implement a change management system
  • Increase and enforce effective security awareness training for employees
  • Enforce a password protocol for complexity, protection and management
  • Implement totally tested backup and restoration of your critical systems
  • Limit admin credentials and strengthen protection and monitoring
  • Use DLP (Data Leak Prevention) tools
  • Analyze and report network traffic anomalies
  • Setup data encryption keys so they cannot be changed
  • Create and employ an incident response strategy

Leverage Professional Cybersecurity Protection

Managing your in house cybersecurity is a costly, time consuming and resource intensive job that requires minute-by-minute threat awareness, proper and on-going firewall configurations, monitoring, incident response and more.  Smart Secure handles it all!

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