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Hospital hack 'tip of iceberg', warns cybersecurity experts

The $17,000 “ransomware” attack on a Los Angeles hospital could signal further attacks, cybersecurity experts warn.

Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital was hacked on 5 February 2016, when hackers infected the hospital's computers, preventing hospital staff from accessing the network.

It was only when the hospital paid the ransom ten days later that the hackers let hospital staff gain access back into the locked computers.

Security experts are particularly worried about this attack, as it has highlighted the vulnerability of hospital IT security. Many hospitals are running outdated operating systems, which are no longer patched and protected, leaving them with gaping security holes, which hackers can exploit to their advantage.

Hospitals have been extremely slow at combating cyber threats compared to other sectors. Lysa Myers, a researcher for computer security firm ESET, claims that the healthcare sector is “between 10 to 15 years behind the banking industry.”

A “ransomware” attack is started when a person opens an emailed link or attachment. This locks the computer, or, in the case of the Hollywood Presbyterian, an entire network. Hackers then demand a ransom to have full functionality of the computer or network back.

The best defence against “ransomware” attack is not to open unknown links and attachments. Malware systems and firewalls also help if a person does click a link or download an attachment.

Statistics revealed by Intel in November have shown that “ransomware” attacks are on the rise and that they are set to grow significantly in 2016. Intel suggests this is down to increased sophistication in the software hackers use and results in an average of three per cent of users with infected machines paying a ransom.

Filed in: News

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