Hijacking Hollywood: Health sector hacking

The Hollywood Presbyterian Memorial Medical Center in LA has been victimised by a ransomware attack.

The hospital found itself unable to use its computer systems, including those needed to access patient records and to complete lab work. A ransom of 9,000 bitcoins was demanded ($3.6 million).  The hospital has now paid a (reportedly much smaller) ransom of 40 bitcoins.

In 2014 the FBI warned that the healthcare sector in the US was particularly vulnerable to hackers,  because health data is so valuable on the black market.  In 2015, the Ponemon Institute estimated cybercrime was costing the US healthcare system up to $6billion a year.  The average data breach was costing hospitals over $2million. Almost 90% of healthcare providers had faced a data breach within the past two years.

Health insurer Anthem suffered one of 2015’s biggest breaches.  Hackers stole staff and customer information  and the data breach affected up to 80 million people.  The company is currently facing multiple lawsuits.

When it set out key trends to watch out for in 2016, security firm Trend Micro said that 2016 was set to be ‘the year of online extortion’. Ransom attacks will focus on just how much a business (or an individual) is willing to pay to protect their reputations.

For those who haven’t heard it – do listen to this episode of RadioLab which features the nightmare story of what happened when one woman’s computer was taken over and a bitcoin ransom was demanded – and paid.

According to Kaspersky Lab, we should all be concerned about the vulnerability of connected objects. Their 2016 predictions feature the continued rise of organised cybercrime and the growth of ransomware targeting individuals.