The healthcare industry has made incredible leaps in technological advancements – straining itself to stay ahead with innovative and intelligent software. Deloitte estimates that 70% of medical devices will be connected by 2023 - with healthcare agencies taking more advanced steps, such as implementing smart technology like IoT. However, with these strides taken, the threat of ransomware attacks has become even more prevalent, especially within Asia.

Cybersecurity has not always been at the forefront of issues concerning the healthcare industry but the Covid-19 pandemic showed the vulnerabilities of having enhanced tech within such a crucial field. After the release of the INTERPOL 2021 ASEAN cyberthreat assessment report, INTERPOL’s Director of Cybercrime Craig Jones said that “the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation, which has opened new opportunities for cybercriminals.”

The same report also stated that within the ASEAN region hospitals in Indonesia and Thailand have also fallen victim to cybercrimes. Healthcare organizations are implored to deploy better cybersecurity and healthcare data security measures within their facilities as it may very well be a matter of life and death if not.

Ransomware Used Against Healthcare Data Security

Ransomware Threats Against Healthcare Data Security

Most cyber-attacks against the healthcare industry are in the form of ransomware threats. It's a type of malware that prevents users from accessing their system, either by locking the system's screen or by locking users' files unless a ransom is paid to the criminals.

Modern ransomware - collectively categorized as crypto-ransomware, uses encryption and forces users to pay the ransom through specific online payment methods to receive a specific decryption key to unlock their data.

While it’s reasonable to assume that such an essential and life-affecting sector would be left out of the grasp of cybercriminals, a new sectoral survey report by Sophos revealed a 94% increase in ransomware attacks on the healthcare industry, as reported by Techwire Asia. The question then begs, why are hospitals being targeted at all?

Why Target Healthcare Data?

The general idea of maintaining a strict cybersecurity presence and healthcare data security within the healthcare sector is to maintain the confidentiality and integrity of critical patient data. This Maryville University article upholds that healthcare cybersecurity focuses on preventing attacks by defending systems from unauthorized access, use, and disclosure of patient data.

There are many reasons these facilities come under perilous attack from ransomware:

Faster Ransomware Response

Cybercriminals already know that these institutions are usually strained under enormous pressure and are therefore more likely to pay the ransom amount faster in order to gain access to their systems. Doctors and nurses simply cannot afford to risk the lives of others in trying to negotiate terms of ransom and opt to pay them off immediately.

Overwhelmed Resources

Cyber-criminals prefer to take advantage of hospitals in dire constraints that are pushed beyond capacity. This was seen in the vaccine booking system ransomware attack in Italy that halted essential Covid-19 vaccine distribution. Times of crisis in the healthcare industry act as the perfect breeding ground for malware attacks, thus leading to compromised healthcare data security.

Outdated Equipment

While most healthcare industries have pushed to digitalize their infrastructure, a startling amount of these facilities still rely on legacy technology - risking patient data and critical hospital functions with the use of inefficient equipment.

Resistance to Cloud Technology

The idea of change can be daunting and this is no different in the healthcare industry when it comes to updating IT infrastructures to a cloud platform. According to a report done by ClearDATA, smaller healthcare providers may have fewer resources to manage the complexity of cloud migration and healthcare data security and are more likely to identify it as a barrier.

Interest in Data Mining

The growing surge of ransomware is being used to infiltrate and compromise healthcare data security and has become a major point of reference for these attacks – with criminals looking to gain access to patient files in order to release them onto the dark web to the highest bidder.

These are only some of the reasons but Sangfor Technologies goes into more detail about the reasons why healthcare industries may be targeted in a blog article.

The Effects of Healthcare Industry Ransomware Attacks

The effects of cyber-attacks on the healthcare industry are critically damaging, especially when considering the implications globally. Due to the advanced technological strides made within the healthcare system, reliance on technology for most practical and administrative procedures will be affected and frozen by a ransomware attack. Some real-life examples of these ripple effects can be categorized as follows:

Life Endangerment

Naturally, the first line of consequence when a cyber-attack is launched against any healthcare facility would be the immediate danger posed to human life. When a ransomware attack is in progress, access to life-saving machinery and technology is halted – risking the lives of patients.

There are 2 incidents of death caused by ransomware attacks on hospitals in recent years. As proven in the harrowing case reported by the Wall Street Journal of a newborn baby delivered at the Springhill Medical Center in the USA – whose IT system suffered a recent ransomware attack. The baby passed away shortly after birth when the machinery needed to detect any health issues was rendered obsolete due to the cyber-attack.

Financial implications

In August 2022, St. Charles Health System overpaid 2 million dollars to 2,358 employees. This comes after the hospital was prevented from accessing timecard data for months after a cyber-attack in December on the Ultimate Kronos Group – a company responsible for scheduling, timekeeping, payroll, and human resources data.

St. Charles is now demanding repayment from the employees. This is just one example of the devastating ripple effects on people’s lives and livelihoods that ransomware attacks hold on the health industry. This ransomware attack on Kronos affected numerous other organizations financially as well.

Patient Confidentiality

When ransomware attacks take place, the data that is hijacked and encrypted can also be leaked onto the dark web – risking the sensitive information of thousands.

A recent example of this was when Practice Resources LLC notified 28 healthcare entity clients that 942,000 of their patients’ sensitive information was compromised in a ransomware attack in April. The New York-based management and billing vendor said in their incident report that hackers may have obtained names, home addresses, dates of treatment, and internal account numbers.

Another incident of this kind was in Indiana when Goodman Campbell Brain and Spine admitted in a report that they were the victims of a ransomware attack that resulted in the release of almost 363,000 patient files being leaked onto the dark web. The Texas Methodist McKinney Hospital also reported a cyber-breach in their systems in July of this year. These incidents prove that an unstable cybersecurity system in healthcare can snowball into affecting every client in your facility’s system log.

What Solutions Are There to Maintain Healthcare Data Security?

We can understand the tumultuous implications of ransomware on entire industries, with entire nations sometimes falling prey to this line of attack, as in the case of the ransomware attack in Costa Rica. However, the debilitating effects of these ransomware attacks hold a significantly higher toll on the healthcare industry and the security of healthcare data as a whole. So how do we combat these threats and maintain healthcare data security?

Some general security solutions to note would be to:

  • Hire expert cybersecurity service providers to perform full security assessments. This will help you understand and take the necessary actions to improve your organization’s state of security.
  • Leverage a security partner and resources that supplement your organization and improve your technology.
  • Use a cybersecurity vendor that has excellent threat detection and response.
  • Outsource part of or all network security operations and maintenance to a security service vendor through a Managed Security Service (MSS).

The Sangfor Solution for Healthcare Ransomware Attacks

Sangfor Technologies is a world-class cybersecurity and cloud computing company that offers intensive and advanced enterprise ransomware prevention and state-of-the-art IT infrastructure for the healthcare industry.

Ransomware detection and avoidance have never been simpler with this integrated solution that pieces together several advanced Sangfor products:

  • Next-Generation Firewall (NGAF): Sangfor’s ransomware solution uses an advanced network security firewall for comprehensive and integrated surveillance and protection of your entire security network with help from Endpoint Secure to root out any malicious threats.
  • Sangfor Managed Cloud Services: Sangfor’s Managed Cloud Services makes the transition to cloud infrastructure simplified and secured. It allows your organization to use integrated cloud technology to stay updated and ahead while the Hyperconverged Infrastructure ensures that your cloud computing is fully optimized by converging compute, storage, networking, and security on a single software stack.
  • Sangfor’s Internet Access Gateway: Effective Ransomware protection requires a secure web gateway that defends company resources by allowing you to identify, analyze, and take immediate action upon user internet access behavior. In addition, it allows you to discover intelligent network traffic solutions to take full control from within.
  • Cyber Command: The groundbreaking network detection and response solution from Sangfor provides automated responses to threats – with AI and machine learning technology to help your company isolate, analyze and eliminate potential threats before they can infiltrate your system.

Sangfor’s Security Solution for Ransomware is the only complete, holistic security solution to prevent and mitigate ransomware attacks in real-time. No other anti-ransomware prevention tool can impact every step in the ransomware kill chain and no other solution is modular enough to be tailored to the requirements and budget of an organization.

Sangfor provides tangible solutions for ransomware affecting healthcare data security in an automated and simplified manner – allowing doctors and nurses to focus on saving lives while we protect your data. Read the success stories of our satisfied customers in the healthcare industry, such as Mariano Marcos Memorial Hospital and Medical Center and Zhongshan Hospital, or contact us for more information.


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