A New Strain of Ransomware Has Healthcare in Its Crosshairs

September 1, 2017

10:50 am

In the last few months, everybody has learned what the term ransomware means. With the WannaCry attack spreading across the world like wildfire recently, everyone from IT directors to content producers were forced to address the gaping cybersecurity holes within their company, despite their general lack of interest. Unfortunately, hackers evolve a lot faster than security measures, which is why a new strain of ransomware is so darn unsettling, particularly for the healthcare industry.

According to researchers at Proofpoint, this new strain, dubbed Defray, is decidedly more dangerous than typical ransomware because it’s a lot more precise. Rather than throwing code at a wall and seeing who it sticks to, Defray specifically targets victims, sending customized messages to lure them in. And, like most security breaches today, it’s propagated through a Microsoft Word attachment.

Despite the incredibly cordial ransom note, this is bad. While studies show that most people believe they can spot a phishing email, they typically can’t. And with this new and improved ransomware, employees will become even more susceptible to hacks. Tragically, one industry has become the focus of these cyber attacks: healthcare.

One such example is NHS Lanarkshire, one of the many hospitals hacked by the WannaCry attack in May. They reported a malware attack at the end of last week, advising hospital attendees to avoid the emergency department until the problem had been resolved.

“Our staff have worked hard to minimize the impact on patients and our contingency plans have ensured we have been able to continue to deliver services while the IT issues were resolved,” said Calum Campbell, chief executive at NHS Lanarkshire in a statement posted to Facebook. “A small number of systems have been affected and these are in the process of being fixed.”

This is another reminder for business owners and individuals alike to start caring about cybersecurity. More and more hackers are becoming empowered with technology beyond your wildest dreams and few things can stop them. However, as the unusually polite cyber attackers behind Defray pointed out, “to prevent this next time, use offline backups.”

Read more about cybersecurity on TechCo

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Conor is a writer, comedian and world-renowned sweetheart. As the Assistant Editor and Writer at Tech.Co, he’s written about everything from Kickstarter campaigns and budding startups to tech titans and innovative technologies. His background in stand-up comedy made him the perfect person to host Startup Night at SXSW and the Funding Q&A at Innovate! and Celebrate, posing questions to notable tech minds from around the world. In his spare time, he thinks about how to properly pronounce the word "colloquially." Conor is the Assistant Editor and Writer at Tech.Co. You can email him at conor@tech.co.

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