FBI warns ransomware assault threatens the US healthcare system with at least four hospitals already hit and hundreds more at risk

 The FBI has warned that cybercriminals are unleashing a major ransomware assault against the US healthcare system. 

Independent security experts say it has already hobbled at least four hospitals this month, and could potentially impact hundreds more.

In a joint alert Wednesday, the FBI and two federal agencies warned that they had 'credible information of an increased and imminent cybercrime threat to US hospitals and healthcare providers.' 


They said 'malicious cyber actors' are targeting the sector with ransomware that could lead to 'data theft and disruption of healthcare services.' 

The FBI is investigating the recent attacks, which include incidents in Oregon, California and New York made public just this week, according to three cybersecurity consultants familiar with the matter. 

A doctor at one hospital told Reuters that the facility was functioning on paper after an attack and unable to transfer patients because the nearest alternative was an hour away. The doctor declined to be named because staff were not authorized to speak with reporters.

'We can still watch vitals and getting imaging done, but all results are being communicated via paper only,' the doctor said. Staff could see historic records but not update those files. 

Experts said the likely group behind the attacks was known as Wizard Spider or UNC 1878. They warned that such attacks can disrupt hospital operations and lead to loss of life.

The attacks coincide with the U.S. presidential election, but do not appear to have any connection to it.

The FBI is investigating the recent attacks, which include incidents in Oregon, California and New York. A doctor at one hospital said the facility was functioning on paper after an attack and unable to transfer patients because the nearest alternative was an hour away (stock)

The FBI is investigating the recent attacks, which include incidents in Oregon, California and New York. A doctor at one hospital said the facility was functioning on paper after an attack and unable to transfer patients because the nearest alternative was an hour away (stock)

'We are experiencing the most significant cyber security threat we´ve ever seen in the United States,' Charles Carmakal, chief technical officer of the cybersecurity firm Mandiant, said in a statement. 

He's concerned that the group may deploy malware to hundreds of hospitals over the next few weeks.

Alex Holden, CEO of Hold Security, which has been closely tracking the ransomware in question for more than a year, agreed that the unfolding offensive is unprecedented in magnitude for the U.S. Administrative problems caused by ransomware, which scrambles data into gibberish that can only be unlocked with software keys provided once targets pay up, could further stress hospitals burdened by a nationwide spike in COVID-19 cases.


The Russian-speaking cybercriminals suspected of the attacks use a strain of ransomware known as Ryuk, which is seeded through a network of zombie computers called Trickbot that Microsoft began trying to counter earlier in October. 

In the past, ransomware infections at hospitals have downed patient record-keeping databases, which critically store up-to-date medical information, affecting hospitals' ability to provide healthcare. 

While the company has had considerable success knocking Trickbot command-and-control servers offline through legal action, analysts say criminals have still been finding ways to spread Ryuk.

The FBI has warned cybercriminals are unleashing a major ransomware assault against the U.S. healthcare system. Independent security experts say it has already hobbled at least four U.S. hospitals this month, and could potentially impact hundreds more

The US has seen a plague of ransomware over the past 18 months or so.

In September, a ransomware attack took down all 250 US facilities of the hospital chain Universal Health Services, forcing doctors and nurses to rely on paper and pencil for record-keeping and slowing lab work. 

Employees described chaotic conditions impeding patient care. Also in September, the first known fatality related to ransomware occurred in Duesseldorf, Germany, when an IT system failure forced a critically ill patient to be routed to a hospital in another city.

Holden said he alerted federal law enforcement Friday after monitoring infection attempts at a number of hospitals, some of which may have beaten back infections. The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

FBI warns ransomware assault threatens the US healthcare system with at least four hospitals already hit and hundreds more at risk FBI warns ransomware assault threatens the US healthcare system with at least four hospitals already hit and hundreds more at risk Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 11:20 Rating: 5

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