intensifies

health

Ransomware Surge Imperils Hospitals As Pandemic Intensifies

Hackers are stepping up attacks on health care systems with ransomware in the United States and other countries, creating new risks for medical care as the global coronavirus pandemic accelerates.

Alerts from US authorities and security researchers highlight a wave of cyberattacks on hospitals coping with rising virus infections.

An unusual warning this week from the FBI with the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, underscored the threat.

The three agencies “have credible information of an increased and imminent cybercrime threat to US hospitals and health care providers,” said the alert issued Wednesday, calling on health systems to “take timely and reasonable precautions to protect their networks from these threats.”

Media reports have cited several US hospitals hit by ransomware.

Hospitals and other health facilities are increasingly being targeted by ransomware even as they try to ramp up for the acceleration in the pandemic Hospitals and other health facilities are increasingly being targeted by ransomware even as they try to ramp up for the acceleration in the pandemic Photo: AFP / DAMIEN MEYER

One of them, the University of Vermont Medical Center, said in a statement Thursday it was working with law enforcement on “a now confirmed cyberattack that has affected some of our systems” which has had “variable impacts” on patient care.

Daniel dos Santos of the computer security firm Forescout said cash-strapped medical centers are particularly attractive targets for hackers and that at least 400 hospitals had been hit in the past few weeks in the US and Britain.

Hackers are aware that “health care is the most likely to pay the ransom because their services are critical,” dos Santos said.

“Stopping services means that people will literally be dying.”

For hospitals unable or willing to pay, “it would mean going back to pen and paper, which can cause huge slowdowns,” he added.

Forescout said in a report that while many hospitals have upgraded computer systems, most use a variety of connected devices such as patient monitors or CT scanners which “act as the weak links in the network” because they transmit data over insecure channels.

Connected devices in hospitals can become weak points for hackers looking to launch ransomware attacks, according to security experts Connected devices in hospitals can become weak points for hackers looking to launch ransomware attacks, according to security experts Photo: POOL / Steve Parsons

In one sign of the troubles looming, dos Santos and fellow researchers said they discovered data on some three million US patients online, “unprotected and accessible to anyone who knows how to search for it.,” the Forescout report said.

Ransomware is a longstanding security issue and health care has been a frequent target. A September attack disrupted Universal Health Services, which operates hospitals in the US and Britain.

But security experts say the attacks are accelerating as the pandemic worsens.

Researchers at the security firm Check Point said its survey showed health care has been the most targeted industry by ransomware, with a 71 percent jump in attacks on US providers in October from a month earlier.

Check Point said there have been significant rises in ransomware attacks on hospitals in Asia, Europe and the Middle East as well. Globally, the firm said ransomware attacks were up 50 percent

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fitness

NSW fullback dilemma intensifies as Papenhuyzen joins Tedesco in Origin fitness race

Papenhuyzen, as well as Storm teammates Dale Finucane and Josh Addo-Carr, arrived at NSW’s Central Coast camp on Wednesday afternoon to undergo a series of medical examinations on the calf strain.

Melbourne’s grand final celebrations since Sunday night wouldn’t have provided Papenhuyzen much time to treat the injury, while the consumption of alcohol would have only hampered his recovery.

Blues teammates Jack Wighton, Clint Gutherson and Nathan Cleary watch on during last week's Dally M Medal ceremony.

Blues teammates Jack Wighton, Clint Gutherson and Nathan Cleary watch on during last week’s Dally M Medal ceremony.Credit:Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

Gutherson has predominantly been training at fullback for the Blues during training with Tedesco on restricted duties. The Roosters fullback has given himself until Saturday to make a decision.

The Blues are on Thursday expected to announce a 21-man squad for game one at Adelaide Oval next Wednesday, with Fittler still uncertain on the make-up of his best 17.

The fullback conundrum will go a long way to determining the back line, given Fittler had earmarked Gutherson to partner Jack Wighton in the centres, but the uncertainty around his first-choice fullbacks could see him bring in another debutant.

If Gutherson moves to fullback, St George Illawarra’s Zac Lomax and Penrith’s Stephen Crichton will do battle for the centre position expected to be vacated by the Eels captain’s shift.

Working in Lomax’s favour is the fact he is a specialist right centre, however he hasn’t played since the first weekend of September when the Dragons bowed out of the competition. Crichton is a left centre, however he has the added advantage of being in peak condition given the Panthers only finished up a few days ago after the grand final loss to Melbourne at ANZ Stadium.

The Blues are confident five-eighth Luke Keary will be fit to play despite adding Jarome Luai to the squad as extra cover at five-eighth on top of the inclusion of Walker.

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Fittler also has to decide between Canberra’s Nick Cotric and the Roosters’ Daniel Tupou for the right wing spot. The front row rotation was also a topic of conversation at the Blues’ selection meeting on Wednesday with one of Junior Paulo, Payne Haas, Daniel Saifiti and Reagan Campbell-Gillard a chance of being left out of the side.

Queensland are expected to blood up to nine debutants for the opening game of the series, including AJ Brimson, Xavier Coates, Brenko Lee, Tino Faasuamaleaui, Mosese Fotuaika, Lindsay Collins, Jake Friend, Jaydn Su’A and Kurt Capewell.

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