Ransomware: Not Even the Hospitals are Safe

By: Drew M Smith

Ransomware attacks seem to be occurring every day. More and more people are being hacked and having their computers locked down using what is called the crypto locker virus. This virus allows a hacker, once the intended victim opens an infected file, to lock down a computer and then potentially spread it to the rest of the system. It does this by encrypting files on the computer and demands a ransom in the form of Bitcoins. But what happens when the hackers demand something you didn’t know about or don’t have.

Recently, we wrote an article about the dangers of ransomware.1 Most companies would either pay the fine or wipe out their hard drives in the event of an attack. Typically these attacks are just a nuisance and cause havoc within a company. However, recently a hospital was shut down which encrypted medical records for two weeks putting not just money at risk but lives.

In Los Angeles, the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center was recently struck with this type of attack.2 The ransom however wasn’t for normal money. It was for the cyber currency, Bitcoins. Bitcoins are virtual money that fluctuates in value much like a stock price. They are virtually untraceable and can be used like normal currency. Many people are rightfully concerned about the usage of these coins, as their inability to be traced can be used by criminals to pass their wealth online.3 Fortunately for the hospital, the amount wasn’t substantial; the total amount demanded was $17,000. Rather than going through the process of debugging the system, considering the amount of data that was locked up, they paid for the ransom with the required Bitcoins and the hackers sent the code to unlock the computer.

But the threat of being hacked is an ever increasing danger and it shows that these hackers will go after anyone, even those with good intentions. The key to stopping this is vigilance and monitoring your e-mails. Before you accept that e-mail confirm with the sender before you click open. Before you wire something, check with the person who sent the request. Hackers will use anything and everything to make sure they can get your data.


1https://www.axisins.com/ransoming-online-the-new-kidnap-and-ransom.html#.VuwIL-IrIdU
2https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/02/18/after-computer-hack-l-a-hospital-pays-17000-in-bitcoin-ransom-to-get-back-medical-records/
3http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/bitcoins-virtual-currency-explained-idiot/story?id=20926230

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