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Irish hospitals warned about surge in cyber crime attacks during pandemic

70pc surge in malware attacks on hospitals over five-week period

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An Irish security firm warned that international cyber criminals are attempting to exploit the Covid-19 pandemic with a series of randomware attacks on healthcare facilities.

Smarttech247 urged all Irish health centres to carefully review their defences against cyber attack following an alarming 70pc surge in such healthcare attacks in the US in the space of just five weeks.

In Europe and the Middle East, such attacks have surged by 36pc between September and October.

A number of such attacks were attempted in Ireland but were foiled by security systems.

The Cork-based firm is working with a number of leading Irish health facilities to strengthen their cyber defences.

But Smarttech247 admitted they were alarmed at the lack of awareness in Ireland of the rising cyber threat levels – with cyber gangs determined to exploit the pandemic for profit.

The FBI warned all US hospitals to protect data systems amid fears cyber criminals will use the pressure of the Covid-19 pandemic to paralyse medical networks and then try to extort money to unlock such systems.

Ransomware is malware that threatens to permanently block a system or distribute the victim’s data unless a ransom is paid to hackers.

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Smarttech247’s team has recorded a 4000pc increase in ransomware attacks since the start of 2020 alone.
General manager Raluca Saceanu warned such incidents are potentially devastating.

“The attack wave could be unprecedented in magnitude for healthcare institutions around the world," she said.

"It takes an average of two and a half weeks to restore networks after a ransomware attack, which is a massive amount of time for a healthcare facility where lives could be put at risk.

"Just two months ago a hospital in Germany recorded the first-ever reported human death believed to have been indirectly caused by a ransomware attack. This is the kind of catastrophic impact ransomware attacks can have and it’s hugely important that authorities are proactive in addressing system weaknesses.”
Smarttech247 experts believes attacks using so-called ‘Ryuk’ ransomware pose a particularly dangerous threat.

Around 20 ‘Ryuk’ attacks are launched each week and it is the type of ransomware most frequently involved in incidents targeting the US healthcare system.

Healthcare officials have been urged to ensure their management and IT plans are up to date, adequate back-up systems are in place and all operating systems are patched as soon as manufacturers release updates.

Officials have also been urged to invest in security and prevention systems.

"While an organisation is working to repair the damage from an attack, they also need to ensure they will not be compromised again. The average victim is hit six times. Ransomware attacks are not a once-off. The hackers will strike again and again until they get what they are after."


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