Interpol warns of ransomware attacks on healthcare institutions

ransomware attacks

Hyderabad: Even as hospitals and medical healthcare institutions are struggling to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, the threat of ransomware attacks have begun to add to their woes.

Following an alert from the Interpol, the Hyderabad Cybercrime police has warned of such attacks and said that hospitals and medical centres were primarily being targeted by cybercriminals since they were overwhelmed with the health crisis. They could not afford to be locked out of their systems and hence they are likely to pay the ransom or that is what the cybercrooks believe.

The ransomware can enter computer systems through emails containing infected links or attachments, compromised employee credentials or by exploiting vulnerability in the system.

The Interpol’s Cybercrime Threat Response team at its Cyber Fusion Centre has detected a significant increase in the number of attempted ransomware attacks against key organisations and infrastructure engaged in the virus response. Cybercriminals are using ransomware to hold hospitals and medical services digitally hostage; preventing them from accessing vital files and systems until a ransom is paid, an alert from the international law enforcement agency said.

ransomware attacks

Following the threat perception, the Interpol issued a Purple Notice alerting police in all its 194 member countries, including India and the State police here, to the heightened ransomware threat.

“As hospitals and paramedical organizations have been continuously working to preserve the well-being of individuals stricken with the coronavirus, they have become targets for these cybercriminals who are looking to make a profit at the expense of sick patients,” officials said.

The Interpol is also providing first-hand technical support to member countries, as well as mitigation and protection advice to help safeguard their critical medical infrastructure. Apart from this, it is also collecting a list of suspicious internet domains related to coronavirus and undertaking further analysis and evaluation to take action.

“At this point, the ransomware appears to be spreading primarily via emails, often falsely claiming to contain information or advice regarding the coronavirus from a government agency, which encourages the recipient to click on an infected link or attachment,” a police official said.

The Cybercime police said prevention and mitigation efforts were key to stopping attacks, particularly for frontline organisations like hospitals which are facing the highest risk. To minimize the risk of disruption in the event of a ransomware attack, Interpol has advised hospitals and healthcare companies to ensure all their hardware and software are regularly kept up to date.

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