A new trend is emerging where hackers are infiltrating hospital systems and disabling their computer networks for ransom. This has the effect of bringing modern medicine to a halt, as many hospitals are reliant on technology to render care to its patients. Instead of asking for millions in return, it appears the hackers are asking for smaller amounts of money. This allows hospitals to get return to normal function and avoid bad publicity. It also allows hackers to avoid police intervention.
Recently, a Los Angles Hospital paid a ransom of nearly $17,000 in the form of bitcoins to hackers who infiltrated its system. In this article, the hospital’s CEO stated, “the quickest and most efficient way to restore our systems and administrative functions was to pay the ransom and obtain the decryption key. In the best interest of restoring normal operations, we did this.”
Police discourage this type of decision-making. They recommend the hospitals immediately call the authorities and let them handle the situation from there. But that is easier said than done. If hospitals do not just pay the ransom, they run the risk of compromising patient care and medical records. Not only that, if the media learns of this event, it can become a public relations nightmare. This is why many hospitals find it easier to just pay the ransom and be done with it.
It is difficult to know exactly how many companies are targeted for ransom because many never reveal it. The data that we do have, however, shows a steady rise in attacks each. In January 2013, Symantek users reported 100,000 attacks. In December 2013, that number rose to 600,000.
These numbers reveal that the need for quality cyber protection is a growing concern. In the medical field, where a patient’s life and private information may be at stake, it is imperative. As our society shifts further and further into the digital age, it is clear that steps must be taken to ensure that patient care and privacy is not compromised.