Since November, ransomware attacks on the healthcare sector have increased 45 percent – a number that is all the more concerning when compounded with the 71 percent increase that took place in October. By November, entities in the healthcare sector were receiving nearly 90 ransomware attacks a day, amounting to 660 per week on average. This data has been released as part of a recent report from Checkpoint Security.

Why do ransomware hackers target the healthcare sector?

Why is the healthcare system such a big target? Forbes cybersecurity columnist Lee Matthews writes:

The combination of healthy bank accounts and a preponderance of incredibly sensitive information is a potent lure.

Threat actors are keenly aware that particular mix tends to make these organizations more willing to pay — and pay quickly — to recover from a ransomware incident.

One of the most active – and remunerative – of these hacking groups is Ryuk, which emerged in 2018. According to Checkpoint’s estimates, Ryuk is behind 75 percent of the current attacks we see on the healthcare industry.

It is estimated that the hacking group has garnered $150 million in cryptocurrency payouts, with an average payment amount of $110,000.

How can healthcare entities best guard against ransomware attacks?

The most recent warning from the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency offers a detailed list of mitigation tips. In general, the following should be kept in mind:

  • Maintain a secure set of backups
  • Regularly update software and devices
  • Change passwords periodically

For more information about just how devastating ransomware attacks can be, read our post “When ransomware attacks cost lives.”