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The Ransomware Plague in Hospitals and Healthcare

By | Backup News, Business Tips, HIPPA, Security, Small Business Computing, Tech Tips for Business Owners | No Comments
by Calyptix, June 1, 2016

The Ransomware Plague in Hospitals and HealthcareFrom pirates to mobsters to petty criminals, kidnapping for ransom is nothing new. We’re all familiar with the process – a person is abducted, the abductor demands a ransom, the ransom is paid, and then the person is released.

Now this age-old form of extortion has evolved into the technological world as ransomware.

Ransomware criminals employ the same principles as their predecessors but with a twist: the kidnappee is data.

The kidnapper in this scenario is crypto ransomware, a malware variant programmed to encrypt and lock data. After a company’s records are locked, the infected computer displays a note that demands ransom.

The perpetrator will only unlock the files once the ransom has been paid in full.

The Ransomware Plague in Hospitals and HealthcareRansomware in Healthcare

The healthcare industry in particular has been struck by a recent spate of ransomware attacks.

With few exceptions, the companies are reluctant to release specific details, leaving the investigating to the FBI.

UMASS Memorial Medical Center

An employee at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester opened an email laced with ransomware last fall, resulting in dozens of locked hospital files on several different computers.

A ransom note was promptly displayed on the hospital monitors.

The hospital chose not to pay ransom, removing all of the encrypted files instead.

Security professionals later restored the system with backup files.

In response, Chief Information Security Officer Bruce Forman outlines his plan to install advanced, persistent threat software that will identify malware based on its behavior.

The Ransomware Plague in Hospitals and HealthcareHollywood Presbyterian Medical Center

On February 5, 2016, hackers locked patient files at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center and demanded ransom for access.

The hospital opted to shell out 40 bitcoins – approximately $17,000 – for the encryption key before calling the FBI.

The hospital was off-line over a week.

Emergency room systems, and computers used for CT scans, lab work and pharmacy needs were were all affected by the attack.

Some 911 patients were even sent to other hospitals.

The International Business Times later reported that a group of Turkish hackers had claimed responsibility for the attack via the text-sharing site Pastebin, threatening more attacks as long as the U.S. supports Kurdish rebels.

The claim is unverified however.

Prime Healthcare ManagementThe Ransomware Plague in Hospitals and Healthcare

The Los Angeles Times reported ransomware attacks on March 27, 2016 at two Prime Healthcare Management, Inc. hospitals: Chino Valley Medical Center in Chino, CA, and Desert Valley Hospital in Victorville.

Spokesperson Fred Ortega said the attacks were “immediately addressed and contained,” and no ransom was paid.

The FBI is still investigating.

A third Prime Healthcare facility, the 306-bed Alvarado Hospital in San Diego, was also infected by a crypto virus on March 31, 2016.

The Ransomware Plague in Hospitals and HealthcareMedStar Health

On March 28, 2016 Columbus, MD based provider MedStar Health shut down its database and email after a viral attack.

The provider operates 10 various hospitals, serves hundreds of thousands of patients, and has over 30,000 employees.

MedStar Health claims no information was stolen, and hasn’t labeled the culprit as ransomware, but The Washington Post reported they received a screen shot of a ransom demand for 45 bitcoins – or roughly $19,000 – from a MedStar employee.

The shutdown forced staff to go old-fashioned, relying on paper charts and records. Appointments and surgeries were also delayed.

Other healthcare organizations targeted by ransomware attacks since February, 2016 include the Los Angeles Health Department, Ottawa Hospital in Canada, Methodist Hospital in Henderson, Kentucky, and King’s Daughter’s Health in Madison, Indiana.

In each case, spokespeople reported the systems were shut down, but later restored with back-up files.

The Ransomware Plague in Hospitals and HealthcareWhy is healthcare a target?

In general, ransomware attacks are becoming more prominent because they are successful.

In 2012, a server of 5,700 computers was locked – all on the same day according to United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team.

Symantec analyzed the data and determined 2.9% of the users with locked computers had paid an average ransom of $200 per computer.

While this may be true of ransomware overall, many healthcare organizations claim they actually aren’t paying ransoms.

But some are.

Medical professionals rely on computer access for everything, from critical patient information like allergies and lab results to operating schedules.

The Ransomware Plague in Hospitals and HealthcareLocking access to records can literally be a life or death situation.

Healthcare organizations may be targets not because of their industry, but because of the types of applications they use according to Craig Williams of Talos Research in Arstechnica Report.

He suspects ransomware perpetrators scan the internet for vulnerable servers, finding many in the healthcare trade.

The increase in crypto virus attacks is also caused by the antiquated security systems employed by many companies according to Zach Forsyth at Comodo.

Healthcare organizations are relatively new to the digital game, and their security systems lack the maturity of those in the financial and technology industries.

Criminal attacks on healthcare organizations increased 100 percent between 2009 and 2013 according to the Ponemon Institute.

The trend of attacks against the vulnerable healthcare industry shows no signs of slowing. In fact, ransomware is emerging as a popular crime , states Ben Desjardin’s post on Radware.

The Ransomware Plague in Hospitals and HealthcareHow do ransomware attacks happen?

Some ransomware attacks gain access through phishing, or luring a user to click on a contaminated email or link. Vulnerable servers can also be targeted remotely.

A recent ransomware campaign against the healthcare industry in March, 2016 was under the scope of Cisco Talos Research.

Perpetrators used the open source tool JexBoss to gain traction in a server. Upon access, a ransomware variant named SamSam encrypyted multiple Window systems.

Another malware distribution method, Ransom as a Service (RaaS), emerged in 2015.

Criminals download the ransomware app builder and customize it according to the Microsoft Malware Protection Center.

Ransom MLIS/Samas also emerged early in 2016, with criminals using a penetration testing attack server that searches to exploit vulnerable networks, and uses a publicly available tool called reGeorg for tunneling.

The Ransomware Plague in Hospitals and HealthcareMSPs and VARs Beware!

It’s not just healthcare providers who should worry about their records being locked. Managed Service Providers and Value Added Re-sellers that service the healthcare industry are also at risk.

HIPAA Regulations for IT Compliance instruct that any business involved in the creation, maintenance or monitoring of electronic protected health information (ePHI) is subject to the Security Rules of HIPAA.

Compliance requires that the confidentiality and integrity of ePHIs remain intact.

Because ransomware locks files rather breaching their integrity, the jury is currently out on whether HIPAA-affected organizations have to report crypto virus attacks to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights.

It’s possible that attackers have determined ransomware victims might pay up if they can be assured the data has not been stolen, and therefore they may not have to report the breach.

The Ransomware Plague in Hospitals and HealthcareWhat can you do?

A simple solution is to back up your files. If you can access what a criminal has encrypted, you can continue to do business.

Train your employees to never click on suspicious emails or links. In addition, a strong password policy should be implemented throughout the company.

Third Tier produced a ransomware protection kit they’ll mail to you in return for a donation that supports females who want to work in the IT field.

Other remedies include installing a multi-tier defense architecture that checks software multiple times for vulnerabilities.

Web scanning can stop your system from accessing malicious sites as well.

Whitelisting is an effective tool that only allows specific, approved programs to run.

Employees can be granted a “least privilege user account,” which means they are not given administrative privileges to their computers.

Ransomware Prevention can also include blocking malicious TOR IP addresses, and testing restores.
Once your security system is set up, do not ignore it – maintain it. The Red Hat-supported JBoss server application was reported vulnerable in 2007 according to The HIPAA Journal.

A patch to correct the vulnerability has existed for almost ten years, and had it been applied, a number of ransomware attacks could have been prevented.

KIT Expands Network Security Services with Calyptix Partnership

By | HIPPA, Security, Tech News | No Comments

“Our clients’ security needs are ever changing in today’s world of cybercrime. With the influx of remote workers, outsourced services and client access, KIT’s Clients needed a solid, robust, but yet easy to maintain security platform that will continue to evolve with technology and business needs. Calyptix Security brings all this and more to table,” said Jim Kubicek, President & COO, Kubicek Information Technologies.

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Data with Lock

What is a Firewall & Why do you need it?

By | Security | No Comments

According to a study by NCSA Cyber Security, only 4% of Americans say they understand firewalls “completely”, while more than 44% don’t understand firewalls at all – or know if they have one enabled on their PC. So for those of you who feel a little unsure – below is a brief overview of why you might need a firewall.

If your PC is connected to the Internet, you are a potential target to an array of cyber threats, such as hackers, keyloggers, and Trojans that attack through unpatched security holes. This means that if you, like most people shop and bank online, are vulnerable to identity theft and other malicious attacks.

A firewall works as a barrier, or a shield, between your PC and cyber space. When you are connected to the Internet, you are constantly sending and receiving information in small units called packets. The firewall filters these packets to see if they meet certain criteria set by a series of rules, and thereafter blocks or allows the data. This way, hackers cannot get inside and steal information such as bank account numbers and passwords from you.

Basic firewalls such as the one included in Windows, only monitor incoming traffic by default. This may give you a false sense of security. Keep in mind, outgoing traffic, with your credit card information, bank accounts, and social security number is not protected. A good firewall will monitor traffic in both directions. That is, both your incoming data and your outgoing data, keeping your private information safe. In addition to preventing unauthorized access to your PC, it also makes your PC invisible when you’re online, helping prevent attempted intrusions in the first place.

Most sophisticated firewalls also include a feature that continuously updates the list of known good and known malicious applications. This way, the amount of questions relating to Internet access is minimized and your computer protection is always up-to-date.

Although a firewall provides critical protection to keep your PC safe from unauthorized access, it cannot remove malware from a system that has already been infected. Therefore, a firewall should be used in conjunction with other proactive measures, such as anti-malware software, to strengthen your resistance to attacks.

Cloud Services

How Managed IT Services and Cloud Computing Improve Your Business

By | Cloud Computing | No Comments

Small business owners who are not already on board the “cloud” may be missing out on a great opportunity to improve their business operations as well as profitability. Cloud computing has changed the landscape of business dramatically in the past few years. In order to reap the most rewards from technological advances, it is important first for business owners to understand what they are dealing with and how new technologies can improve the functionality of their business.

What is Cloud Computing?

To better understand this concept you must only turn to the Internet. How the Internet is used has changed greatly over the years and in terms of business, any programs or services that you use via an Internet connection could loosely be described as a cloud service. Cloud computing allows you to utilize software and services without having to run the servers or software in house. These outside vendors run the software and servers, making it possible for you to pay attention to what is most important, running your business. Examples of cloud computing services that are commonly used by businesses today include; Salesforce.com which offers programs to aid sales staff in tracking customer information and data storage backup services such as those offered from Amazon.com.

Benefits of Cloud Computing

As more and more businesses are relying on cloud computing services you might wonder how they can benefit your business. There are many benefits including long term reduction of software and computer costs, improved data security (secure off site backup and storage) and increased functionality and customer service. As cloud computing continues to evolve and offer additional products and services, many businesses that are currently on the fence will make the decision to venture to “the cloud”.

Managed IT Services Can Make the Transition to Cloud Computing easier

Despite the growing popularity of cloud computing and the increased number of companies utilizing these services, not all business owners nor customers are completely convinced this is the way to go. There is little doubt that this area of technology will continue to develop and likely become main stream within a few years. With that in mind, business owners who question this technology can benefit greatly by consulting with managed service providers to help guide them through any transitions. Managed services providers are up-to-date with all new technology and can offer services that include cloud computing to improve the way your business runs as well as provide much needed assistance in the event of a man-made or natural disaster.

By working with a Managed IT Services Provider your business can immediately reap the rewards of cloud services while still having trained professionals in your corner to ensure your business is adequately protected and invested in this technology. Finding the right managed services provider can make the difference between your small business increasing efficiency and improving functionality versus getting left behind in the virtual dust. Working with a qualified managed services provider will eliminate much of the confusion associated with “new” technology and position your business in a place where you can compete with others in your field while reducing in-house IT costs.

Managed Services

Maintaining HIPAA Compliance with Online Data Storage

By | Backup News | No Comments

Keeping patient records secure and private is the concern of every hospital and health care provider, but they are often overwhelmed with years and years of patient information and the lack of adequate storage space. Destroying these health records in order to make room for more storage is often not an option. Patients want access to all of their health care records, and physicians need them in order to better diagnose patients. Online data storage is a way to satisfy all of these issues.

Using online data storage for these records allows easier access for patients, and offers easier sharing of patient information from hospital to physician, as well as from physician to physician. Storing health records online isn’t, however, without security concerns. Patients, hospitals, and physicians want assurance that these confidential records will remain safe, private, and secure, and will only be accessed by those authorized to do so.

What is HIPAA?

HIPAA or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 was created in order to protect health information and give patients certain rights regarding their private health information. It also allows for disclosure of health information necessary for patient care. This act specifies safeguards necessary for administrative, and physical and technical handling of patient health information.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS.gov) HIPAA has many requirements and restrictions. It requires safeguards for:

  • Access Control
  • Audit Controls
  • Person or Entity Authentication

Access control is defined in the HIPAA Privacy Rule as “the ability or the means necessary to read, write, modify, or communicate data/information or otherwise use any system resource.” It should allow authorized users to only access the minimum amount of information necessary to complete job functions. The Access Control specification also requires the implementation of an exclusive user identification or user ID, and immediate access in case of an emergency.

What Type of Security is Necessary?

When dealing with patient records in an office, maintaining privacy and security usually involves storing patient files in locked cabinets where the files can be physically secured and visibly monitored at all times. When you are storing patient information online, certain precautions must be met in order to maintain the same security and privacy guaranteed each patient.

While HIPAA permits patient records to be transmitted over the Internet, businesses will want a service that offers file encryption, authentication and password protection in order to secure the information. Although HIPAA does not require online data storage services to have encryption, it does require that patient information be adequately protected and accessible only to authorized persons. Encryption is the best way to protect that information and ensure authorized access to those records. It is also important to offer backup services in case of a virus attack, flood, or fire. Finally, the service must offer a method of tracking any security breach, as well as the ability to lock out former employees after they have left or been terminated.

When storing patient information, it is important to stay HIPAA compliant, as the fines for not doing so are expensive. While online data storage for health care businesses guarantee less worry, work, and expense for health care providers, the service is only as good as the security offered. Remaining HIPAA compliant is vital in order to continue a good business relationship with the health care industry.

Identity Theft

The High Cost of Recovery from a Security Breach

By | Security | No Comments

Small to medium size businesses are what keep this country moving. Unfortunately, for many of these business owners, budgetary needs force them to make cuts that the mammoth corporations do not have to consider. These budget cuts can often result in reduced security and sub par IT services that in the long run can end up costing the company even more money. Reacting to; and the recovery from, a security breach or attack always costs more after it has happened than what it would have cost to prevent it.

This fact has been supported by recent surveys, and may come as a surprise to many small and mid-size companies who are under the false impression that hackers and other security threats target larger corporations. It has been discovered that companies that have less than 500 employees are actually more likely to be at risk of an attack or security breach than a larger corporation. Of course, this becomes a problem when the larger corporation has the resources to maintain higher levels of security at a time when smaller companies are dealing with restricted or; in some cases, frozen IT budgets.

The benefits of hiring a Managed IT Services Provider in preventing attacks and security breaches

With a security breach a real concern for small business owners, many are making the decision to bring on outside providers to address their IT needs. Managed services providers can offer an affordable solution to small business owners who are struggling to manage an internal IT staff. In some cases there isn’t even an IT person on staff, which can be just as costly for the small business when they have to bring in a professional on an as needed basis. Considering the money and time spend recovering from a security attack or breech, more business owners are realizing the cost of not having this level of protection is too high to pay. Here we look at how managed services providers can help business owners level the playing field against those who would infiltrate their security systems.

  • Increased knowledge- Managed services providers are in the business of technology. They have trained staff who are able to prevent security breeches and spot any activity that could be perceived as a threat. Moreover, they have the expertise to stop threats and prevent the loss of sensitive and private information that can lead to costly recovery measures.
  • Less expensive than in-house IT- Other IT professionals can provide the same security but it will cost much more to the business owner. What many owners are realizing is paying a flat monthly fee for security and other services provided by msp’s is actually much more cost effective than paying an internal IT staff or outsourcing based on incident.
  • Proactive is better than reactive- The biggest benefit of having a quality managed services provider in your corner is the fact that you are acting in a proactive manner to ensure all of your systems are managed properly. This is less expensive and less time consuming than waiting for something bad to happen and then reacting.

Any small business can benefit from the security provided by a Managed IT Services provider. They can do so at a fraction of the cost, therefore eliminating the fear and unnecessary cost of trying to recover from a breech in security or attack.

Click here to learn how Kubicek Information Technologies can help you prevent attacks and security breaches with our Network Security Services for your business in Cumming, Suwanee, Alpharetta, Johns Creek and surrounding Metro Atlanta.

Benefits of Outsourcing for Technology Services

By | Business Tips, Tech Tips for Business Owners | No Comments

Most business entrepreneurs have great talent and the means to run a very successful business. The snag they most often run into is the belief that they can do it all. This mindset can be detrimental to the overall success of their business. Trying to do it all can lead to hindered growth, lower profit margins and in some cases failure. Outsourcing for things like technology services creates an opportunity for both the business entrepreneur to focus on what they do best.

In order to create a business that is structurally sound, expandable and profitable, business owners should focus the majority of their time and energy on their personal talents and skills that are most important to the growth of their business and those skills that will most help in the generation of income. Instead of trying to do it all they can most benefit by delegating certain tasks – and outsourcing for technology services is one of them.

Outsourcing has become very popular and with technology today like the Internet, outsourcing is easy and accessible. Companies can find extremely qualified candidates from around the world right at their fingertips. Many highly trained individuals have left the corporate world and are available for hire as contractors. Expertise in just about any area a business may need is available. Examples include virtual assistants, graphic designers, IT specialists, accountants, marketers, Public Relation specialist, writers and so much more.

Some of the best tasks to outsource include those that are highly skilled tasks or those have that require trained expertise. For example if you have no knowledge of your IT needs or how to build and maintain a company website, hiring a specialist will be much more cost effective that you spending hours trying to teach yourself. Initially, your cost for this type of work might be a bit high, while the contractor helps to access your needs and builds your site. Down the road however, you most likely will be able to outsource our IT needs on a maintenance basis.

Highly repetitive tasks are also good ones to outsource. Data entry or accounts payable and receivable are jobs that you most likely can do, but they will only slow down your own productivity. Many times you can hire a virtual assistant to help you in these areas for just a few hours a week. This will not be overly costly and will inevitably free you up to work on other areas of the business that would most benefit from your attention.

Executive expertise is another area to consider outsourcing, especially if the business owner does not have great knowledge in this area. Someone that can take a hard look at your business plan, profitability margin and any ideas you have for expansion can be of great insight. Many times businesses will hire someone to come in and look over these items just once a month, quarterly or yearly. Their consultations can lead to new innovative ideas that could lead your business to new expansions, higher productivity and higher profit margins.

Most often, the cost advantage far outweighs what you will actually pay out to contractors. Most companies that rely on outsourcing do much better than their competitors.

Click here to learn how Kubicek Information Technologies can help you focus on running your business with our Staff Augmentation and Onsite Placement Services for your business in Cumming, Suwanee, Alpharetta, Johns Creek and surrounding Metro Atlanta.

HIPAA. You may recognize these letters.

By | HIPPA | No Comments

HIPAA. You may recognize these letters. You may even know what they stand for…and unless you’ve been living on Mars for the past few years, you’re almost certainly concerned – confused even – about those elusive but impending deadlines and what it means for your business.

We just signed up for free HIPAA Security Training for all of our employees at HIPAA Secure Now! We know many of you have to comply with the HIPAA regulations so sign-up and get your employees trained for free!

This will help you and your employees as well. Just click on the below referral link to go to the HIPAA Secure Now! website and fill out the sign-up form. It will only take a minute to fill out the form.

FREE HIPAA Security Training