Hospital injects $60,000 into crims' coffers to cure malware infection

Medics say they couldn't wait for backups to be pulled as ransomware ransacked kit


A US hospital paid extortionists roughly $60,000 to end a ransomware outbreak that forced staff to use pencil-and-paper records.

The crooks had infected the network of Hancock Health, in Indiana, with the Samsam software nasty, which scrambled files and demanded payment to recover the documents. The criminals broke in around 9.30pm on January 11 after finding a box with an exploitable Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) server, and inject their ransomware into connected computers.

Medical IT teams were alerted in early 2016 that hospitals were being targeted by Samsam, although it appears the warnings weren’t heeded in this case.

According to the hospital, the malware spread over the network and was able to encrypt “a number of the hospital’s information systems,” reducing staff to scratching out patient notes on pieces of dead tree.

With flu season well underway in the US state, Hancock Health administrators called in the FBI’s cyber-crime task force, and a third-party IT specialist, to quickly restore the ciphered filesystems – but the files could not be recovered in time. So the hospital did what too many other businesses are doing, and paid the ransom a day later on January 12 – in this case four Bitcoins.

“We were in a very precarious situation at the time of the attack,” Hancock’s CEO Steve Long said in a statement to The Register today.

“With the ice and snow storm at hand, coupled with the one of the worst flu seasons in memory, we wanted to recover our systems in the quickest way possible and avoid extending the burden toward other hospitals of diverting patients. Restoring from backup was considered, though we made the deliberate decision to pay the ransom to expedite our return to full operations.”

Resumed

The ransomware's masters accepted the payment, and sent over the decryption keys to unlock the data. As of Monday this week, the hospital said critical systems were up and running and normal services have been resumed.

This doesn’t appear to be a data heist. The hospital claimed no digital patient records were taken from its computers, just made inaccessible. “The life-sustaining and support systems of the hospital remained unaffected during the ordeal, and patient safety was never at risk,” the healthcare provider argued.

Taking hospital bosses at their word – and assuming "oh, we had to deal with the flu" isn't a cover-up for failed tape drives – the IT department did generate backups but these were not immediately available.

It's one thing to keep an offline store of sensitive data to prevent ransomware on the network from attacking it. It's another to keep those backups somewhere so out of reach, they can't be recovered during a crisis, effectively rendering them useless.

It just proves that when planning disaster recovery, you must consider time-to-restoration as well as the provisioning of backup hardware. ®

Similar topics

Broader topics

Narrower topics


Other stories you might like

  • SEC probes Musk for not properly disclosing Twitter stake
    Meanwhile, social network's board rejects resignation of one its directors

    America's financial watchdog is investigating whether Elon Musk adequately disclosed his purchase of Twitter shares last month, just as his bid to take over the social media company hangs in the balance. 

    A letter [PDF] from the SEC addressed to the tech billionaire said he "[did] not appear" to have filed the proper form detailing his 9.2 percent stake in Twitter "required 10 days from the date of acquisition," and asked him to provide more information. Musk's shares made him one of Twitter's largest shareholders. The letter is dated April 4, and was shared this week by the regulator.

    Musk quickly moved to try and buy the whole company outright in a deal initially worth over $44 billion. Musk sold a chunk of his shares in Tesla worth $8.4 billion and bagged another $7.14 billion from investors to help finance the $21 billion he promised to put forward for the deal. The remaining $25.5 billion bill was secured via debt financing by Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Barclays, and others. But the takeover is not going smoothly.

    Continue reading
  • Cloud security unicorn cuts 20% of staff after raising $1.3b
    Time to play blame bingo: Markets? Profits? Too much growth? Russia? Space aliens?

    Cloud security company Lacework has laid off 20 percent of its employees, just months after two record-breaking funding rounds pushed its valuation to $8.3 billion.

    A spokesperson wouldn't confirm the total number of employees affected, though told The Register that the "widely speculated number on Twitter is a significant overestimate."

    The company, as of March, counted more than 1,000 employees, which would push the jobs lost above 200. And the widely reported number on Twitter is about 300 employees. The biz, based in Silicon Valley, was founded in 2015.

    Continue reading
  • Talos names eight deadly sins in widely used industrial software
    Entire swaths of gear relies on vulnerability-laden Open Automation Software (OAS)

    A researcher at Cisco's Talos threat intelligence team found eight vulnerabilities in the Open Automation Software (OAS) platform that, if exploited, could enable a bad actor to access a device and run code on a targeted system.

    The OAS platform is widely used by a range of industrial enterprises, essentially facilitating the transfer of data within an IT environment between hardware and software and playing a central role in organizations' industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) efforts. It touches a range of devices, including PLCs and OPCs and IoT devices, as well as custom applications and APIs, databases and edge systems.

    Companies like Volvo, General Dynamics, JBT Aerotech and wind-turbine maker AES are among the users of the OAS platform.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022