Security

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

By Iain Thomson in San Francisco

25 SHARE

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. ®

Sign up to our NewsletterGet IT in your inbox daily

25 Comments

More from The Register

Antivirus hid more than 9,000 'cybercrime' reports from UK cops, says watchdog

Detailed info wound up in quarantine

Contacts-slurping Android malware sneaked onto Google Play store – twice

Could a simple automated scan have picked up open-source nasty? Hmm

Google scolded for depriving the poor of privacy as Chinese malware bundled on phones for hard-up Americans

Updated To make matters worse, uninstalling it could cause even more pain

Google Play Store spews malware onto 9 million 'Droids

How did these get through the net?

Google's joins Gang of Four to guard Play Store apps from malware, and maybe not fail so much

The App Defense Alliance posse will scrutinize Android app code before release

Backup biz Acronis ascends to unicorndom after $147m splurge led by Goldman Sachs

Cash for acquisitions, new hires and data centre expansion

Malware spotted doing unspeakable, filthy things to infected Macs – injecting Bing results into Google searches

Or so claim these security bods after clocking proxy-installing fake Flash plugin

Harassment, hate and bile, suicide instructions for kids... anything else social media's good at? Ah yes, cybercrime

Businesses as well as ordinary punters hit by viral nasties

Israel's NSO Group: Our malware? Slurp your cloud backups plus phone data? They've misunderstood

After report claimed its sales pitches boasted of doing that

Android PDF app with just 100m downloads caught sneaking malware into mobes

Scram CamScanner, says Kaspersky

Whitepapers

Reduce Redis Enterprise Deployment Cost, Complexity with Intel Optane DC Persistent Memory

Intel has prepared this Optane DC persistent memory kit to help you reduce Redis Enterprise deployments cost and complexity with 2nd generation Intel Xeon scalable processors and Intel Optane DC persistent memory.

Evolving Datacenters without Complexity

In this session, we’ll talk about how IT leaders are advancing the capabilities of their datacenters to rise to today’s challenges. Our guest speaker, Chris Bradford, Product Manager at DataStax will bring first-hand expertise to a discussion with The Register host Elena Perez.

Who Needs Malware?

Learn how fileless techniques work and why they present such a complex challenge.

Security Advisory: Is Your Enterprise Data Being "Phoned Home"?

This report provides four real-world examples of vendors “phoning home” data in an unauthorized manner, observed by ExtraHop customers in 2018 and the first weeks of 2019.