Federal agencies flagging ‘imminent cybercrime threat’

The American Medical Association (AMA) reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Infrastructure Security Agency, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have issued an advisory to flag an “imminent cybercrime threat” to U.S. hospitals and health care providers – noting that “several hospitals across the country have already been hit.”

The agencies have “credible information that cybercriminals are taking new aim at health care providers and public health agencies as the COVID-19 pandemic reaches new heights.”

The joint advisory explains that “malicious cyber actors” may be planning to “infect systems with Ryuk ransomware for financial gain on a scale not yet seen across the American health care system” and that “hospitals, physician practices, and public health organizations should take timely and reasonable precautions to protect their networks from these threats.”

The agencies stress that, “Malware targeting techniques often lead to ransomware attacks, data theft, and the disruption of health care services.” They are recommending several mitigation steps and best practices for health care entities to take to reduce their risk, including…

– Patching operating systems, software, and firmware as soon as manufacturers release updates

– Regularly changing passwords to network systems and accounts and avoid reusing passwords for different accounts

– Using multi-factor authentication whenever possible

– Disallow use of personal email accounts

– Disabling unused remote access/Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) ports and monitoring remote access/RDP logs

– Identifying critical assets, backing these systems up, and housing the backups offline

– Setting antivirus and anti-malware solutions to automatically update and conducting regular scans

AMA and the American Hospital Association have created two resources to help physicians and hospitals guard against cyber threats that are available on AMA’s cybersecurity webpage.

Joint Cybersecurity Advisory