Attacks on healthcare organizations in the United States have increased sharply this year, but the country is not alone: In the UK, NHS ransomware attacks have also soared in recent months as the UK’s National Health Service is increasingly being targeted by ransomware gangs.
As in the United States, healthcare organizations are vulnerable to ransomware attacks and that has not escaped cyber-blackmailers’ attention. In the past 12 months at least 28 NHS trusts have experienced ransomware attacks according to data recently released under a Freedom of Information request.
NHS Digital, the body responsible for NHS cybersecurity, confirmed that NHS ransomware attacks have been increasing; however, so far it has not been necessary for any NHS trust to pay a ransom demand to unlock data. NHS Digital also confirmed that patients have not been affected by the NHS ransomware attacks as health records have not been encrypted.
The Freedom of Information request was submitted by Manchester, UK-based information assurance firm NCC Group. Out of the 60 requests made, 47% had experienced a ransomware attack in the past year. Cybercriminals are gaining access to healthcare networks and when they are unable to find any other way to monetize the data they find they resort to encrypting data to extort money from hospitals, according to NCC Group’s technical director Ollie Whitehouse. Whitehouse said “We have seen a 400% increase in these attacks.”
FOI requests submitted by UK TV station Channel 4 earlier this year showed that out of 152 NHS trusts, 39 had been attacked with ransomware. Given the increase in attacks, it is now more important than ever to implement cybersecurity defenses to keep data secure and to provide employees with training to make them aware of the threat.
While not specifically set up to help healthcare organizations prevent and deal with ransomware attacks, help is being provided. Last November, a new initiative was launched to help UK healthcare organizations improve their cybersecurity defenses. The initiative, called CareCERT (Care Computer Emergency Response Team), aims to educate healthcare organizations on cybersecurity threats, provide timely advise on the latest threats, and give advice on how those threats can be mitigated. The national service offered by CareCERT was expanded last month with three new services added.
CareCERT Knowledge helps healthcare organizations train their employees on basic cybersecurity awareness. CareCERT Assure provides assistance to healthcare organizations to help them assess their cybersecurity defenses, while CareCERT React helps healthcare organizations reduce the impact of a data security incident.
The new services can be used by healthcare organizations to counter the increased threat from ransomware and other malware and keep networks and data secure.