Healthcare Prone to Attack, Still Unprepared

The one-year anniversary of WannaCry, the ransomware that disrupted businesses across the globe, is upon us. Since the ransomware attack that impacted an estimated 200,000 computers, new research suggests that organizations across the UK are still struggling to deal with ransomware, none more than those in the healthcare industry.

Over 400 IT decision makers at UK businesses partook in a recently released report from Webroot, which found that a large majority of the respondents (88%) feel better equipped to deal with a ransomware attack. Healthcare organizations are more prone to attacks than other industries, yet 98% of respondents in the healthcare sector said they are better equipped to deal with an attack now than they were one year ago.

That number could indicate a false sense of security, given that 45% of respondents had suffered a ransomware attack. Of those, nearly a quarter (23%) actually paying the ransom. More than half of the healthcare companies polled (52%) admitting to having suffered an attack.

“Organizations still aren’t investing the necessary time and resources in risk mitigation and recovery processes, leaving them with limited options in case of a successful attack. The healthcare industry in particular needs to be very aware of the fact that it is a high-profile target, with valuable data at stake, and take special care to ensure that defenses are in place,” said David Kennerley, director of threat research, Webroot.

In the healthcare sector, multiple attacks hit over one in four (26%) organizations. Of the 400 survey participants, 56% of respondents would consider paying the ransom. That number is smaller for organizations in the healthcare sector, with only 34% saying they would consider paying. Interestingly, only 5% of all those surveyed have stocked Bitcoin should they need to pay a ransom. However, 8% of organizations in the healthcare sector have acquired cryptocurrency.

“A ransomware attack should be a blip on the radar that wastes people’s time to restore from backups, not a week-long debacle of trying to restore service and deciding whether to pay the ransom or not,” said Mounir Hahad, head of Juniper Threat Labs at Juniper Networks.

While backing up critical data and testing backups regularly has been advised as a way to mitigate the risks of a ransomware attack, 36% of survey respondents don’t have a regular backup system. That decreases to 32% when looking solely at the healthcare industry.

Addressing the human factor seems to be one step that many companies have taken to mitigate risk. Kennerley noted that when organizations invest in security awareness training with phishing simulation tools, they are less likely to suffer from attacks than those who don’t invest in employee education. Fewer than half of the respondents (46% overall, 42% in healthcare) reported that they have not held staff training on ransomware.

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