The Global Cyberattack And The Need To Revisit Health Care Cybersecurity

National Health Service (NHS) ambulance outside of Waterloo Station, London.

Last week’s global cyberattack garnered wide media attention, as it spread across nearly 150 countries. Among its primary victims was the United Kingdom’s National Health Service system, causing massive shutdowns and inconveniences to the country’s health care infrastructure. Though certainly not the only internationally scaled cybersecurity threat in recent years, this attack’s consequential impacts should serve as a stark reminder of the significant vulnerabilities within the intersection of technology and medicine.

Accordingly, experts need to revisit a few areas of concern in the health care industry which may be conducive to increased cybersecurity threats in the coming years.

Hospital/Health Care Systems

The Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Civil Rights, which oversees the enforcement of patient privacy laws such as HIPAA (Health Information Portability and Accountability Act), contends “that [the] personal health data of 30 million Americans has been compromised since 2009.” With the advent of electronic medical records and digital systems to store patient data, hospitals have become critically dependent on electronic media to provide patient care, and have thus become ripe targets for hackers which seek to extort or cripple large health care systems. Similar to the UK’s current crisis, extortionists often encrypt vital system and patient files, making it impossible to move forward with treatment or patient care. While some hackers cyber security seek payment prior to releasing the files, far larger concerns emerge when patient data itself is stolen, giving access to vital information about an individual’s health care records and overall biography. The potential misuse to this data is limitless, as medical records and specific patient files can fetch up to $500 to $1200 (per record) in unregulated forums.

Medical Devices

Revolutionary innovations in health care such as pacemakers, insulin pumps, and other medical implant devices have made it easy for patients to seek personalized and convenient care. However, many of these devices have…

22-Year-old Who Stopped Global Cyberattack Donates His Reward to Charity

The British youth who was awarded $10,000 for accidentally stopping an international cyberattack has just announced that he will be donating the cash to charity and education.

The 22-year-old, who goes by the pseudonym MalwareTech, shut down the spread of the malicious online program by activating the “kill-switch” last week after the cyberattack was reported in over 100 countries.

Organizations worldwide were infected by the malicious ransomware known as “WannaCry” – a program that encrypts the users files and holds them for ransom. If the user does not pay the several hundred dollar ransom in bitcoin on time, then all of the data and files stored on the computer are deleted. The National Health Organization, FedEx, Telefonica, and Nissan are all examples of corporate giants who were affected by the malware in addition to hospitals and businesses worldwide.

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When MalwareTech and his friends heard of the epidemic, they started investigating the malware’s code. The 22-year-old Brit then found an unregistered domain name in the source of the code that acted as an “abort” button for the malware. When he registered the domain name, the attack ceased.

Though he has preferred to keep his…

The Ransomware Attack Isn’t Over—Here’s How to Protect Yourself

If your computer’s running on Microsoft Windows, you need to take these steps—right away.

Here’s why: in case you haven’t heard, hackers exploited a vulnerability in older Microsoft Windows servers to execute a large-scale global cyberattack on Friday using ransomware — a malicious software that holds your computer hostage for ransom — and a hacking tool stolen from the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). The massive attack left victims locked out of their PCs with a promise of restored access if $300 was paid in digital currency Bitcoin—and a threat of destroyed files if the ransom is not met.

Thus far, at least 200,000 computers have been infected in more than 150 countries, leaving everything from businesses and governments to academic institutions, hospitals and ordinary people affected.

How it works

The malware, which “spreads like a worm,” is transmitted through a phishing email containing a compressed, encrypted file. Since the file is encrypted, security systems do not identify the ransomware, called Wanna Decryptor, until after it is downloaded. Wanna Decryptor, a next-gen version of the WannaCry ransomware, gains access to a given device once the malware-filled file is downloaded: it then encrypts data, locks down the system and demands ransom.

Ransomware does not typically work this quickly. But thanks to a stolen NSA cyber-weapon called EternalBlue, which was made public last month by a hacking group known as the “Shadow Brokers,” the malware spread rapidly by exploiting a security flaw in Microsoft Windows servers.

What users need to do

Simply put: make sure your Microsoft Windows server is up to date. Microsoft issued a patch in mid-March to fix the hole in Windows 7 and other supported versions of Windows: Vista, Server 2008, Server 2008 R2, 8.1, Server 2012, RT 8.1, 10, Server 2012 R2, and Server 2016. But those who did not apply the software update were—and still are—left exposed to the hack.

In light of the attack, Microsoft rolled out patches to protect older versions of Windows that “no longer receive mainstream support” from the company like Windows XP, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2003. Those…

In Ransomware Attack, Where Does Microsoft’s Responsibility Lie?

SEATTLE — When malicious software first became a serious problem on the internet about 15 years ago, most people agreed that the biggest villain, after the authors of the damaging code, was Microsoft.

As a new cyberattack continues to sweep across the globe, the company is once again at the center of the debate over who is to blame for a vicious strain of malware demanding ransom from victims in exchange for the unlocking of their digital files.

This time, though, Microsoft believes others should share responsibility for the attack, an assault that targeted flaws in the Windows operating system.

On Sunday, Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, wrote a blog post describing the company’s efforts to stop the ransomware’s spread, including an unusual step it took to release a security update for versions of Windows that Microsoft no longer supports. Mr. Smith wrote, “As a technology company, we at Microsoft have the first responsibility to address these issues.”

He went on, though, to emphasize that the attack had demonstrated the “degree to which cybersecurity has become a shared responsibility between tech companies and customers,” the latter of whom must update their systems if they want to be protected. He also pointed his finger at intelligence services, since the latest vulnerability appeared to have been leaked from the National Security Agency.

On Monday, a Microsoft spokesman declined to comment beyond Mr. Smith’s post.

To prepare for fallout with customers, Judson Althoff, a Microsoft executive vice president, sent an email to the company’s field sales team on Sunday encouraging them to be supportive of businesses targeted by the attack, or even those who were simply aware of it.

“Our key direction to you is to remember that we are in this with our customers — we are trusted advisers, counselors, and suppliers to them,” he wrote. “More than technical guidance, I want you to make sure you are spending the time needed to understand the concerns they have and that they know we…