Ransomware Attack on Europe's Largest Private Hospital Operator

The largest private hospital operator in Europe has been struck by a ransomware attack as the continent strives to prevent healthcare systems from being overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cyber-criminals, apparently unburdened by a conscience, launched an attack on the technology systems of Fresenius, limiting some operations at the company. 

News of the incident was broken today by Krebs on Security, who learned of the attack from an anonymous source with a relative working for Fresenius Kabi’s US operations. According to the relative, computers in his company’s building had been roped off following a Snake ransomware attack that had affected the company’s operations globally.

Fresenius spokesperson Matt Kuhn confirmed in a written statement that "Fresenius’ IT security detected a computer virus on company computers" and that the group's "IT experts are continuing to work on solving the problem as quickly as possible and ensuring that operations run as smoothly as possible.”

Four independent businesses make up the Fresenius Group: Fresenius Medical Care, Fresenius Helios, Fresenius Kabi, and Fresenius Vamed. Employing nearly 300,000 people across more than 100 countries, the group is a leading provider of care and dialysis treatment to patients experiencing kidney failure. 

COVID-19 can cause sudden kidney failure, and people who already have kidney disease are considered at high risk from the deadly virus. According to the Renal Association, 25% of COVID-19 patients placed on ventilators while being treated on an intensive care unit (ICU) develop severe AKI (acute kidney injury), which can be life-threatening. 

This increased need for the kind of kidney-focused equipment and care delivered by Fresenius makes the timing of the ransomware attack on the company even more deplorable. 

Fresenius Group is based in Germany, which today announced that if new infections of COVID-19 rise to above 50 people in every 100,000 in a district over the course of a week, an "emergency brake" on easing lockdown restrictions will be enforced at local state level. 

Commenting on the unconscionable attack, security awareness advocate at KnowBe4 Javvad Malik said: "The attack serves as a reminder that criminals are not slowing down their attacks despite being in the midst of a global pandemic."

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