Since we last updated our blog about ransomware attacks on hospitals in February, many additional health care entities have been publicly recognized as victims of similar attacks. Some of the ransomware programs involved in these incidents came through spam email or phishing campaigns, often disguised as invoices or other documents. Once the document was opened, the user received a message demanding payment in exchange for a digital key that would unlock the data. Certain other of the attacks utilized a new method that, rather than requiring an individual to click on a link in an email or browser page, infects systems via an unpatched server vulnerability.

For these reasons, it is critical for health care entities to educate staff about phishing emails, and to keep up with required software patching to reduce vulnerabilities.

Most of the affected hospitals have asserted that no patient information was lost during the incidents, as the aim of the ransomware attackers was to lock up, rather than access, the information in order to obtain a payout from the affected entity. The FBI continues to investigate this growing trend of ransomware attacks on health care organizations, and Senator Barbara Boxer of California recently asked the FBI to give details on its efforts to combat the increased use of ransomware on hospitals and other businesses.