In September, the Duesseldorf University Hospital in Germany experienced a ransomware attack that hit its network and infected more than 30 internal servers, crashing systems. Hospital officials blamed the ransomware infection on a vulnerability in a widely used commercial software, which is a common IT problem.
What makes this incident newsworthy was that during the attack, a patient who was on her way to the hospital for emergency medical care was re-routed to a hospital 20 miles away in the city of Wuppertal. She died because of that delay in treatment – making hers the first reported death caused by a ransomware attack.
Healthcare is favorite target for ransomware
Hospitals and healthcare facilities have always been prime targets for cybercriminals who prefer ransomware attacks because the need for fast, continuous access health records and computer systems creates urgency that increases the likelihood that victims will pay their attackers. According to a recent report by Comparitech, more than 1,500 healthcare organizations have been hit with successful ransomware attacks since 2016 costing the sector over $160 million.
The volume and sophistication of ransomware attacks has risen steadily over the past few years and is only getting worse. Ransomware attacks are now projected to occur every 11 seconds by the end of next year. However, you can now put in place the right layers of technology to prevent such attacks from hampering you or your clients.
Four steps to avoiding cyberattacks
As we said, cybercriminals are often successful because they commonly exploit vulnerabilities in software that can be left unpatched. While ensuring that operating systems and applications are regularly patched to close those vulnerabilities, getting your clients and their employees to follow four easy steps can help them avoid any number of cyberattacks – from ransomware to phishing attempts.
The tips you should remind them of include:
- Never click on unverified links. Make sure they know the risks of clicking links in spam emails or on unfamiliar websites, which can immediately infect their machine with ransomware. Advise them that when a message includes a hyperlink or tiny URL, they should hover over it with their pointer first to see what the URL actually is.
- Don’t open email attachments from untrusted sources. Get clients in the habit of always looking at the email address for each message they received to confirm it is genuine. If they know the sender but aren’t sure the attachment looks real, make sure they know to contact the sender directly to confirm that it is genuine. Also, while it may seem obvious, make sure they know not to simply hit “reply” on the suspicious email to contact the sender.
- Don’t give out personal data. If they receive an email or call from a company asking for their personal information, they should be comfortable ignoring the request since respectable companies won’t ask for personal data via email or phone. If the topic seems genuine and urgent, they should contact the company directly to see if there is an issue.
- Only download from trusted websites. At a minimum, clients should caution their employees against downloading software or files from unknown websites – although a safer approach is to lock machines so only an admin can load software. Clients should always verify that a website is secure by looking in the address bar for ‘https’ at the beginning of the URL.
Best defense against ransomware
As an IT service provider, the most important steps in protecting your clients’ data is ensuring that you have a strong backup and recovery process in place for them, and that your security solution is able to detect the most recent ransomware strains.
Combining those capabilities in a way that both strengthens their security posture and streamlines your ability to manage all of their protections is the ideal solution.
One technology proven to protect clients against ransomware is Acronis Active Protection, one of the integrated cybersecurity features in Acronis Cyber Protect. Acronis Active Protection constantly monitors the user’s system, looking for suspicious behaviors typical of ransomware, like an unfamiliar process suddenly trying to rename and encrypt a series of files. With the help of artificial intelligence and machine learning, Acronis Active Protection quickly identifies ransomware-like behaviors, halts the process that is attempting them, and notifies the user of the suspicious activity.
The inclusion of Acronis Active Protection in every Acronis Cyber Protection Solution provides a distinct advantage over separately deployed antimalware and backup products. No combination of standalone products can deliver the kind of highly automated detection, termination and recovery from ransomware attacks that Acronis does, with tightly-integrated backup and antiransomware protection.
The death from ransomware in Germany was a wake-up call for organizational IT teams across the globe, as well as the cybersecurity professionals and IT service providers who support them. Even if their own organization is not in a life-and-death industry such as healthcare, there is a clear lesson that everyone can learn from this tragic incident: Ransomware education and prevention needs to be a top priority for every company moving forward.
To learn more about how Acronis can help you prevent a ransomware attack from encrypting your clients data and crippling their operations, visit acronis.com/ransomware-protection/.