Ransomware: Preventing Disaster

Ransomware is making headlines and striking fear into hospitals across the globe. These computer viruses do not actually steal information from databases, but they can block access by the hospital or practice to the very data they have stored and use every day to manage and care for their patients. If you are concerned about whether a ransomware could hold your practice’s data hostage, PatientNow has a few facts about this alarming trend that you need to know.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of computer virus that holds data “hostage” from its owner. The owner of the data must pay a stated amount of money, usually in bitcoins, to have the data released. This ransom is reportedly all the hackers are looking for, and data is returned rather than stolen completely in most cases. However, the data is compromised, and when you are a plastic surgeon with highly sensitive patient information in your database, compromise can be devastating for your practice.

The newest methods of ransomware attacks have proven much more difficult to detect than earlier ransomware viruses. In addition, more recent types of viruses are designed for maximum impact, with a goal of shutting down as much of the business as possible so the owner has no option but to pay the ransom and retrieve the information. Law enforcement is advising against paying the ransom, since there is no guarantee your data will be unlocked and ransom payments are likely to encourage other ransomware viruses to follow. However, when you are a medical provider unable to access patient information, refusing to pay a ransom is not always the easiest option.

Attacks on Hospitals

Many of the most recent ransomware attacks have been on hospitals and medical groups across the country. In February, a virus hit Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles. The attack was potent enough to force the hospital into paper and pencil mode for a large portion of the operations. The facility ended up paying the $17,000 in bitcoins as ransom to have their systems restored.

Earlier this month, Methodist Hospital in Henderson, Kentucky, faced a similar attack. In this case, the hospital was able to fend off the attack without resorting to paying ransom, by declaring an internal state of emergency and working through their limited Internet access. Eventually, the hospital was able to regain control of their systems.

Just this week, the self-proclaimed largest healthcare provider in Maryland and Washington D.C., MedStar Health, was the victim of a ransomware attack. The group, which operates 10 hospitals and 200 outpatient offices in the area, was forced to disable their network to prevent the virus from spreading. The group has no reason to believe any of its data was compromised at this time. The FBI is looking into this attack as well as some of the other attacks that have left medical providers vulnerable and unable to provide their full scope of services to their patients.

Keeping Your Practice Safe

Experts will tell you the best way to deal with a ransomware virus is to prevent it from happening in the first place. To lower your risk of an attack, you can follow these steps:

Refrain from opening any foreign email attachments or Word documents
Always keep your software up to date with the latest versions of your browser, OS and browser plug-ins
Never enable execution of macros in documents without verified senders
Perform your daily activities from a limited user account

The Importance of Secure Software

When you sign on with the secure software from PatientNow, you are also taking an important step in preventing any type of virus attack, including ransomware. Our sophisticated, state-of-the-art packages feature the best security in the business, ensuring you and your patients are safe from theft. If you would like to learn more about how PatientNow can help protect you from cyberattacks of all kinds, contact our office today at 888-644-2987.