Officials Warn of Cyberattacks on Hospitals as Virus Cases Spike


Hundreds of American hospitals are being focused in cyberattacks by the identical Russian hackers who American officers and researchers worry might sow mayhem round subsequent week’s election.

The assaults on American hospitals, clinics and medical complexes are meant to take these services offline and maintain their knowledge hostage in alternate for multimillion-dollar ransom funds, simply as coronavirus instances spike throughout the United States.

“We expect panic,” one hacker concerned within the assaults mentioned in Russian throughout a personal alternate on Monday that was captured by Hold Security, a safety firm that tracks on-line criminals.

Some hospitals in New York State and on the West Coast reported cyberattacks in latest days, although it was not clear whether or not they have been half of the assaults, and hospital officers emphasised that essential affected person care was not affected.

The Russian hackers, believed to be based mostly in Moscow and St. Petersburg, have been buying and selling a listing of greater than 400 hospitals they plan to focus on, in keeping with Alex Holden, the founder of Hold Security, who shared the data with the F.B.I. Mr. Holden mentioned the hackers claimed to have already contaminated greater than 30 of them.

On Wednesday, three authorities businesses — the F.B.I., the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency — warned hospital directors and safety researchers a couple of “credible threat” of cyberattacks to American hospitals, in keeping with a safety government who listened to the briefing.

Officials and researchers didn’t title the affected hospitals, however Sonoma Valley Hospital in California mentioned it was nonetheless making an attempt to revive its laptop techniques after an intrusion final week. St. Lawrence Health System in New York confirmed that two of its hospitals, Canton-Potsdam and Gouverneur, have been hit by ransomware assaults Tuesday morning that triggered them to close down laptop techniques and divert ambulances. Sky Lakes Medical Center in Oregon was additionally crippled by a ransomware assault Tuesday that froze digital medical information and delayed surgical procedures, a hospital consultant mentioned.

Employees at that hospital, in Klamath Falls, Ore., have been advised, “If it’s a P.C., shut it down,” mentioned Thomas Hottman, the general public data officer at Sky Lakes.

It was unclear whether or not these assaults have been associated to the hacking marketing campaign underway. But the newest breaches have been linked to the identical Russian hackers who held Universal Health Services, a large community of greater than 400 hospitals, hostage with ransomware final month in what was then thought-about the biggest medical cyberattack of its variety.

The hackers are additionally the identical group behind TrickBot, an unlimited conduit for ransomware assaults that authorities hackers and expertise executives have focused in two takedowns over the previous month.

In late September, United States Cyber Command began hacking into TrickBot’s infrastructure in an effort to disable it earlier than the election. Microsoft also started taking down TrickBot servers via federal court orders over the past month. The goal of both efforts, officials and executives said, was to pre-empt ransomware attacks on the election that could disrupt voting or create delays that would undermine confidence in the election.

But researchers said those takedowns had an unintended effect: cutting off security sleuths’ access to the hackers. “The challenge here is because of the attempted takedowns, the TrickBot infrastructure has changed and we don’t have the same telemetry we had before,” Mr. Holden said.

The latest campaign on American hospitals suggests that TrickBot’s developers are undeterred. It also shows they are moving to different hacking methods and tools.

“They don’t need TrickBot because they have an entire arsenal of other tools that they can use,” said Kimberly Goody, an analyst at Mandiant, a division of the digital security company FireEye.

Ms. Goody said the tools used in the latest hospital attacks emerged for the first time in April and were not as well known, making them more effective.

It was not clear whether the latest hospital attacks were retaliation for the TrickBot takedowns. Microsoft said it took offline more than 90 percent of the TrickBot servers.

Mr. Holden described the group as a “wounded animal” and said the latest attacks were not as well-planned as previous ones. They were also a notable departure from an agreement among ransomware groups in March not to target hospitals because of the coronavirus pandemic, he said.

“We now have more sick people in this country than we had in March and April,” Mr. Holden said. “This is wrong.”

By targeting hospitals now, Ms. Goody said, the hackers were “demonstrating a clear disregard for human life.”

The hackers also made higher ransom demands of hospitals than they have in previous attacks. In one attack on an unnamed private clinic, Mr. Holden said, the hackers held systems hostage for the Bitcoin equivalent of more than $5 million, more than double the typical ransom the group asked for months earlier.

The hackers, Mr. Holden said, used to base those demands on an old Russian formula, charging 10 percent of a victim’s annual revenue.

“There is an old Russian tradition to give 10 percent of annual revenue to the church,” he said. “This is the hackers’ way of doing the same.”

Reed Abelson contributed reporting.



Source link Nytimes.com

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