AIIMS ransomware attack: Key patient data at risk of leak, sale on Dark Web, say cyber experts

With the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, still struggling to get its servers up and running after a massive ransomware attack earlier this week, cyber-security researchers on Saturday said the most reported attacks in the healthcare industry, which rose during the pandemic, involve the leak or sale of databases on the Dark Web. The exploited databases contain Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of patients and healthcare workers, as well as administrative information such as blood donor records, ambulance records, vaccination records, caregiver records, login credentials, etc. Also Read – Ransomware attacks: 75 percent spike in attacks on Linux OS users in first half of 2022

“Government agencies involved in the healthcare industry should abide by HIPAA’s (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliance requirements, create awareness among users regarding cyber-attacks, online scams, and phishing campaigns, set up policies for secure passwords and enable multi-factor authentication (MFA),” a spokesperson of AI-driven cyber-security firm CloudSEK told IANS. Also Read – SpiceJet faces ransomware attack: Flights delayed, passengers stranded on airport

The cyber attack on AIIMS shut down its main and back-up servers. The attackers hacked the e-hospital service which manages the patient data system, affecting the outpatient department (OPD) and sample collection services. Delhi Police are investigating the cyber attack. Meanwhile, AIIMS officials said that all affected online patient services are now being run on manual mode.

According to CloudSEK, a massive spike in cyberattacks on healthcare organisations has been witnessed during the pandemic. “Our research shows that in the first four months of 2022, the number of cyberattacks on the industry rose by 95.34 per cent compared to the same period in 2021. The Indian healthcare sector was the second most targeted when it comes to cyberattacks worldwide,” the company spokesperson said.

Protecting patients’ medical and financial information has emerged as a new challenge for healthcare organisations. According to Indusface, an application security SaaS company, there were more than 1 million cyber attacks of various types across Indusface’s global healthcare clientele. Of these, 278,000 attacks were reported in India, highlighting the vulnerabilities of the Indian healthcare sector.

CloudSEK research revealed recently that immediate challenges to the healthcare sector include phishing and BEC (business email compromise), ransomware attacks, DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks, insider threats, critical infrastructure and Medjacking, etc.

In August this year, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) was hit by a ransomware attack via a third-party vendor. Advanced, which provides several products to NHS hospitals and clinics, said its systems were disrupted by a ransomware attack on August 4.
Three months after the major attack wiped out NHS systems, patients’ records are still missing and safety has been compromised, according to reports. The August attack has been the most disruptive cyber-security incident on the health service since WannaCry ransomware attack in May 2017, which disrupted 80 NHS trusts and 603 NHS organisations, including 595 GP practices.

“Organisations should frequently update and patch networks, systems, and software. Keep several backups, both online and offline, in different and secure places. Keep an eye on logs for any unexpected traffic and activity on websites and other applications,” advised CloudSEK. Healthcare experts, including hospital staff, should avoid clicking on suspicious emails, messages and links, it said.


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