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Thursday, 19 March 2020 09:42

COVID-19: Sec firm Emsisoft offers to aid healthcare providers hit by ransomware Featured

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COVID-19: Sec firm Emsisoft offers to aid healthcare providers hit by ransomware Supplied

Security firm Emsisoft has partnered with incident response company Coveware to offer free assistance to critical care hospitals and other healthcare providers who are on the front lines of tackling the coronavirus pandemic and suffer a Windows ransomware attack.

The company said in a blog post that ransomware presented a serious risk to organisations that were tasked with providing urgent care to the critically ill. It pointed out that in 2019, at least 764 healthcare providers had been subject to Windows ransomware attacks.

Emsisoft said the services which it would offer were:

  • Technical analysis of the ransomware;
  • Development of a decryption tool whenever possible;
  • As a last resort ransom negotiation, transaction handling and recovery assistance, including replacement of the decryption tool supplied by the criminals with a custom tool that will recover data faster and with less chance of data loss.

The company invited anyone with expertise who was also willing to help to contact them.

Emsisoft said ransomware attacks were likely to spike in the coming weeks as the Western spring and summer months often showed an increase in these incidents.

Citing statistics (see graph below) from its own research and also figures from the EPRSC EMPHASIS Ransomware Project, Emsisoft said: "Whether these spikes are due to increases in the number of attacks or organisations being more susceptible to attacks at certain times of year is not clear.

emsisoft graphic

"However, in either case, it is likely that there will be an increase in the number of healthcare providers impacted by ransomware in the coming months and, unfortunately, this increase may coincide with the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak.

"Further, the spikes may be more pronounced than in previous years due to security weaknesses resulting from hastily introduced work-from-home arrangements, personal device usage and staffing shortages.

"In short, we may be looking at a near-perfect storm in which healthcare providers are disrupted at the very time they are needed the most."

In an unusual touch, Emsisoft said it understood that ransomware creators and attackers were also human and trying to make money. However, it appealed to them, saying: "Make no mistake, an attack on a healthcare organisation will have negative outcomes and may result in the loss of life.

"We ask for your empathy and co-operation. Please do not target healthcare providers during the coming months and, if you target one unintentionally, please provide them with the decryption key at no cost as soon as you possibly can. We’re all in this together, right?"

Last month, Emsisoft issued a report about the cost of ransomware incidents in a number of countries; that report said ransomware cost Australia about US$39.8 million (A$60.4 million) in ransom demand costs in 2019 at the minimum.

And in December, Emsisoft released a report about the scale of ransomware attacks on the US public sector.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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