a healthcare professional uses a tablet infected with ransomware

Ransomware attacks are a significant concern in the healthcare industry. Healthcare institutions are under increasing threat from cyber attacks that can threaten hundreds of thousands of sensitive data files.

And with many medical organizations becoming overwhelmed with the effort of treating the COVID-19 pandemic, cyber criminals are capitalizing on this crisis to attack. The World Health Organization has faced a constant barrage of cyber attacks since the pandemic began, forcing the organization to double its cybersecurity team. But even after the current crisis is over, healthcare organizations worldwide will continue to be confronted by the ever-growing risk of falling prey to ransomware.

When a healthcare organization suffers a ransomware attack, patient information can be leaked to the public or stolen by hackers. Not only is this bad news for patients, whose data can be used for theft or fraud, but it can be financially and reputationally devastating for the organizations whose data is leaked as well.

How and Why Is The Healthcare Industry Being Targeted?

We’ll begin with the how. Ransomware is a form of malware which encrypts data files. If you fall prey to a ransomware attack, you’ll be locked out of your files without access to any of the affected data. The culprits will then demand payment for the return of your files, holding them for ransom until you meet their demands.

Statistics show that ransomware attacks in healthcare are on the rise. Ransomware attacks more than doubled from 2018 to 2019, and the rise in attacks on the healthcare industry increased by 350% in that same time.

In fact, in one recent case from just last year, over 300,000 patients had their information compromised due to a ransomware attack on the Premier Family Medical group. Hackers demanded an undisclosed fee to lift the data encryption, but the company decided to instead work with local law enforcement to try to recover their data. This is, sadly, just one of the many recent examples of ransomware attacks in healthcare.

Why is this industry being targeted? Hackers realize that patient records and medical data are incredibly important. Healthcare facilities constantly need to access this data to work with patients and provide treatment. Therefore, they’re more often willing to go to greater lengths to recover their data.

Patient details such as medical history and treatment information are also more valuable to hackers than simple credit card numbers, as they can be used to create personalized spear phishing attacks that victims are more likely to fall for.

So the targeting of healthcare industries is caused by the combination of the wealth of valuable personal information these companies hold combined with the urgent nature of healthcare work.

How Can You Protect Your Company from Ransomware?

You can start safeguarding against ransomware attacks on your healthcare business by completing the following three steps:

Stay Up to Date on Patches and Software

Your antivirus software and firewalls are designed to protect you from attacks. The issue is that many companies fail to update their software or install essential patches. You don’t just need a one-time solution; as ransomware evolves and new strains are developed, you’ll need to update your security to protect against the most recent threats.

One of the largest healthcare ransomware attacks in recent years, the WannaCry attack of 2017, could have been prevented entirely if users had installed the software patch that had been released two months previously. Instead, hundreds of thousands of users and companies fell victim to the attack.

Ensure that you watch out for new threats to your data and never delay updates.

Empower Your Employees to Protection Your Business

Employees are often a business’s weakest link in their cyber defense. The majority of successful ransomware attacks, and other cyber attacks too, gain access to victims’ systems because of human, not technological, error: someone was tricked into clicking on a malicious link or downloading malware.

Therefore, you must train all employees in best cybersecurity practices. Teach your staff how to recognize a phishing email or untrustworthy link, and how to report issues if they find anything suspicious.

Because human error enables so many ransomware attacks, ironing out those errors will be a big step toward keeping you safe.

Work with a Managed Service Provider

Ultimately, the best way to ensure maximum protection is to work with an Managed Service Provider (MSP). Using the latest antivirus software and training your employees will help your security, but there will still be room for a hacker to exploit your weaknesses and slip through your defenses. A Managed Service Provider offers 24/7 monitoring of your entire IT system. They continually watch for any threats—both external and internal—to proactively protect you against evolving technological attacks.

Not only that, but an MSP can provide advice and guidance on the best software to use to fight back against ransomware attacks and cybercriminals. This guarantees that you have the best antivirus and firewall software installed. They will also take care of installing updates and patches as required.

When you utilize the Managed IT Services of an MSP, you’re entrusting them with your tech’s safety. You no longer have to worry about blocking threats and remembering to install updates, because they will take care of it for you. With the significant risks posed to the healthcare industry in the form of ransomware attacks and other cyber threats, you won’t regret hiring an MSP to guard your company’s valuable data and resources.