Healthcare organisations have witnessed serious cyber-attacks in the last three years as nearly 75 percent of them lost their data to encrypted data ransomware attacks. This was revealed in the result of a survey conducted by Sophos, an international research body and global leader in innovating and delivering cyber security as a service. According to the Survey: “The State of Ransomware in Healthcare 2023”, only 24 percent of healthcare organisations were able to disrupt a ransomware attack before attackers encrypted their data.
The result of the survey revealed that, among those organisations surveyed, cyber criminals successfully encrypted data in nearly 75 percent of ransomware attacks. This is the highest rate of encryption in the past three years and a significant increase from the 61 percent of healthcare organisations that reported having their data encrypted last year. In addition, only 24 percent of healthcare organizations were able to disrupt a ransomware attack before the attackers encrypted their data—down from 34 per cent in 2022; this is the lowest rate of disruption reported by the sector over the past three years.
“To me, the percentage of organizations that successfully stopped an attack before encryption is a strong indicator of security maturity. For the healthcare sector, however, this number is quite low—only 24 per cent. What’s more, this number is declining, which suggests the sector is actively losing ground against cyber attackers 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. In the latest Active Adversary Report for Tech Leaders, we found that the median time from the start of a ransomware attack to detection was only five days. We also found that 90 percent 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 cyber- crime, 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),” said Chester Wisniewski, Director, Field CTO, Sophos. Additional key findings from the report revealed that in 37 per cent of ransomware attacks where data was successfully encrypted, data was also stolen, suggesting a rise in the “double dip” method;
healthcare organisations are now taking longer to recover, with 47 per cent recovering in a week, compared to 54 per cent last year. The overall number of ransomware attacks against healthcare organisations surveyed declined from 66 per cent in 2022 to 60 per cent this year. Compromised credentials were the number one root cause of ransomware attacks against healthcare organisations, followed by exploits. The number of healthcare organisations surveyed that paid ransom payments declined from 61 per cent last year to 42 per cent this year.
This is lower than the cross- sector average of 46 per cent. “In 2016, the 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 health- care organizations—and at- tackers know that—meaning we’ll always be a target.
After this ransomware attack, we worked hard with Tekpyme to bolster our defences, and now we have reduced our incident response time by 80 per cent. I think the industry as a whole is making improvements but there is still work to do, because of the constantly changing nature of cybercrime. Hopefully, healthcare organizations can leverage the help that is available from security vendors such as Sophos to prevent a very real ‘threat to life’ if systems go offline due to a ransomware attack,” said José Antonio Alcaraz Pérez, Head of Information Systems and Communications at Cruz Red Andalusia in Spain.
“Cyberspace today is ripe with technically sophisticated actors looking for vulnerabilities to exploit. What all this translates to is a multidimensional cyber threat of actors, who have the tools to paralyze entire hospitals. 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,” said Christopher Wray, FBI Director. Meanwhile, to help defend against ransomware and other cyber-attacks, Sophos recommends strengthening defensive shields with security tools that defend against the most common attack vectors, including endpoint protection with strong anti- ransomware and anti-exploit capabilities; Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) to thwart the abuse of compromised credentials.
It also recommends adaptive technologies that respond automatically to attacks, disrupting adversaries and buying defenders time to respond; and 24/7 threat detection, investigation, and response, whether delivered in-house or by a specialized Managed Detection and Response (MDR) provider. It urges organisations to optimize attack preparation, including regularly backing up, practicing recovering data from backups, and maintaining an up-to-date incident response plan, and to also maintain security hygiene, including timely patching and regularly reviewing security tool configurations.