Summertime, and the ransomware is running wild (updated)

Mashing up our summer ‘tune’ list are the latest reports on ransomware attacks and data breaches:

  • Banner Health’s odd breach of 3.7 million records, first testing their café credit cards then entering their patient information systems, is leading to at least one class-action lawsuit. HealthITOutcomes, Becker’s Hospital Review
  • Bon Secours Health System of Maryland had a exposure of 655,000 records when a business associate of Bon Secours left patient information exposed online for four days while it adjusted its network settings. Healthcare Dive
  • The Locky ransomware has been battering hospitals since the beginning of August, with phishing emails spiking on August 11. Most of this global strike is attacking healthcare, with transportation and telecom running second; countries with the highest frequency of attacks are US, Japan, and South Korea, FireEye reports. ZDNet
  • Solutionary, now NTT Security, which specializes in cybersecurity services, reported last month that 88 percent of all ransomware detections in second quarter 2016 targeted healthcare. However, Cryptowall, not Locky, was the killer ransomware they spotted, accounting for nearly 94 percent of detections. Release
  • Can you anticipate cyber crimes like these? ID Experts has an intriguing blog post on how you can think like a cyber thief. Part One of a promised three-part series. Updated: ID Experts disclosed earlier this week that it spun off RADAR, its two-year-old IT security and compliance company, effective 2 Aug, with a $6.2 million Series A funding. It appears that the CEO wrote the check (CrunchBase).  There’s gold in dem dere cyber varmints! MedCityNews  Release
  • Scared enough? The Federal Trade Commission comes to the rescue with a half-day seminar on ransomware detection and prevention in Washington DC on September 7. The session is free and will be webcast (details to come). FTC release, event page

Ransomware alert up in US, Canada: more details

Ransomware threats are now the subject of a joint alert in both the US and Canada, with at least 14 hospitals under attack on both sides of the border. Ten of the hospitals are part of MedStar in Maryland [TTA 26 March, updated], and as your Editors have noted, it’s not just hospitals but also Mac iOS under attack and now, reportedly, even police and cafes (Telegraph.ukNPR). $24 million was lost to ransomware in 2015 in the US alone, according to the FBI. Healthcare IT News reports a new variation called PowerWare which is delivered through MS Word documents, but goes further than Locky in mimicking legitimate files and activities without writing new files on the system, which makes it hard to detect. It invades PowerShell which is used by system admins for task automation and configuration management.

If you are catching up and want a useful overview, see Wired. The headline states the obvious, at least to this Editor. Hospitals and their often-flawed IT managed by overworked staffs are the perfect target for ransomware and multiple viruses as lives are at stake, not widget production. Like most malware and internet Bad Things, ransomware originated in Eastern Europe (where else?) back in 2005. Most attacks include instructions on how to access bitcoin, the untraceable payment method demanded by the hospital hostage-takers.

How to prevent or mitigate? NPR cites Peter Van Valkenburgh, director of research at Coin Center, a digital currency advocacy non-profit, that hospitals can take safeguards including HTTPS encryption, two-factor authentication and implementing file backups on a separate server.