As coronavirus cases surge, so do cyberattacks against the healthcare sector

Researchers say healthcare organizations have faced a 45% spike in attacks since November.

The healthcare sector should brace itself against an increase in cyberattack rates and a variety of attack vectors over the coming months, researchers have warned. 

On Tuesday, cybersecurity firm Check Point released new statistics that show a 45% increase in cyberattacks since November against the global healthcare sector, over double an increase of 22% against all worldwide industries in the same time period. 

According to the researchers, attack vectors employed by threat actors are wide-ranging; including distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, social engineering, botnets, phishing, and ransomware. 

However, ransomware, in particular, is of serious concern. 

We've already seen just how debilitating a ransomware attack wave can be. The WannaCry outbreak of 2017 locked up and disrupted operations for countless businesses worldwide, and in the past four years, ransomware has continued to grow in popularity due to how lucrative a criminal business it has become. 

When it comes to hospitals, some providers will pay blackmail fees demanded by ransomware operators rather than risk patient care. The death of a patient due to a ransomware attack on a hospital has already occurred. 

Check Point says that ransomware attack rates are surging against the healthcare sector. The Ryuk ransomware strain is now the most popular malware to deploy in these attacks, followed by Sodinokibi. 

Overall, an average of 626 attacks was recorded on a weekly basis against healthcare organizations in November, in comparison to 430 in October. Central Europe has been hardest hit in the past two months, with a 145% increase in healthcare-related attacks, followed by East Asia, Latin America, and then the rest of Europe and North America.

Healthcare organizations in Canada and Germany experienced the largest surge in cyberattack rates at 250% and 220%, respectively. 

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Check Point says that the reason for the increase is financial, with threat actors seeking to cash in on the worldwide disruption caused by COVID-19. While bog-standard fraudsters are targeting the general public through phishing, emails, texts, and phone calls in coronavirus-related campaigns, other groups are hoping to profit through more debilitating attacks on core services. 

"As the world's attention continues to focus on dealing with the pandemic, cybercriminals will also continue to use and try to exploit that focus for their own illegal purposes -- so it's essential that both organizations and individuals maintain good cyber-hygiene to protect themselves against covid-related online crime," the team says. 

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