Not only have hospitals been paralysed by the COVID-19, but recently, they’ve also become targets for a very sophisticated cyber-attack.
“We’re back in the 1970s,” said Caroline Kohn, the spokeswoman for groups of hospitals in Eastern Ireland. She is referring to the fact that the attack forced the Ireland health system to shut down its entire information technology system, and the hospitals were forced to keep all of their records on paper. Thousands of diagnostic appointments, cancer treatment clinics and surgeries have been cancelled or delayed.
Hackers used malware that encrypts victims’ data until they pay a ransom, which is known as ransomware. Irish officials say a ransom was demanded but that they will not pay it. The attack forced the Irish health system to shut down its entire information technology system for a whole week.
We’re offering you a screenshot of a negotiation for ransom in which Conti, a Russian-speaking ransomware group, was demanding $20 million from Ireland’s publicly funded health network.
There are many steps organisations and individuals can take to prevent such an attack.
- Avoid clicking on links in spam messages or on unknown websites.
- When using a public Wi-Fi network, your computer is more vulnerable to attacks. To stay protected, avoid using public Wi-Fi for sensitive transactions or use a secure VPN service.
- Ransomware can also find its way onto your device through email attachments. Avoid opening any dubious-looking attachments.
- Never connect USB sticks or other storage media to your computer if you do not know where they came from.
- If you receive a call, text message or email from an untrusted source requesting personal information, do not reply to it.
- Rely on verified and trustworthy sites for downloads.
- Make sure that the browser address bar of the page you are visiting uses “https” instead of “http”.
- A shield or lock symbol in the address bar can also indicate that the page is secure.