Healthcare Sector Vulnerable To Ransomware Attacks, Report Shows

Cybercriminals successfully encrypted data in ransomware attacks on nearly 75% of healthcare organizations surveyed, according to survey by cybersecurity service provider Sophos.

In its sector survey report “The State of Ransomware in Healthcare 2023”, it is the highest rate of encryption in the past three years and a significant increase from the 61% of healthcare organizations that reported having their data encrypted last year.

In addition, Sophos’ survey found that only 24% of healthcare organizations were able to disrupt a ransomware attack before the attackers encrypted their data, down from 34% in 2022, which the lowest rate of disruption in the last three years.

Sophos Global Field CTO director Chester Wisniewski said in his opinion, the percentage of organizations that successfully stop an attack before encryption is a strong indicator of security maturity.

“For the healthcare sector, however, this number is quite low — only 24%. What’s more, this number is declining, which suggests the sector is actively losing ground against cyberattackers and is increasingly unable to detect and stop an attack in progress.

“Part of the problem is that ransomware attacks continue to grow in sophistication, and the attackers are speeding up their attack timelines,” he said.

In the latest Active Adversary Report for Tech Leaders, Sophos found that the median time from the start of a ransomware attack to detection was only five days.

“We also found that 90% of ransomware attacks took place after regular business hours. The ransomware threat has simply become too complex for most companies to go at it alone.

“All organizations, especially those in healthcare, need to modernize their defensive approach to cybercrime, moving from being solely preventative to actively monitoring and investigating alerts 24/7 and securing outside help in the form of services like managed detection and response (MDR),” he said.

Other key findings of this year’s ransomware survey is that 37% of ransomware attacks where data was successfully encrypted, data was also stolen, suggesting a rise in the “double dip” method.

It also found that healthcare organizations are now taking longer to recover, with 47% recovering in a week, compared to 54% last year.

One of the healthcare organisation affected Cruz Red Andalusia in Spain said in 2016, its Red Cross Hospital of Córdoba in Spain suffered a ransomware attack that reached servers and encrypted hundreds of files, medical records and other important patient information.

“It was a major disruption to our operations and interfered with our ability to care for our patients. The stakes are high in ransomware attacks against healthcare organizations—and attackers know that—meaning we’ll always be a target,” said its head of information systems and communications José Antonio Alcaraz Pérez.

US’ Federal Bureau of Investigation director Christopher Wray added: “Cyberspace today is ripe with technically sophisticated actors looking for vulnerabilities to exploit. Partnering with the private sector is critical to our mission. The information [they] share has real-world impacts and can save real businesses and real lives.

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