Hacks Against Healthcare Industry on the Rise

Hackers are continuing to use the coronavirus crisis for personal profit. We recently wrote about the increase in malicious sites and phishing campaigns impersonating the World Health Organization and other healthcare companies. But now hackers appear to be turning their sights to the healthcare sector itself. Here are two notable cases from the past few weeks.

WHO Malware Attempt

Earlier this week, the World Health Organization confirmed hackers attempted to steal credentials from their employees. On March 13th a group of hackers launched a malicious site imitating the WHO’s internal email system. Luckily, the attempted attack was caught early and did not succeed in gaining access to the WHO’s systems. However, this is just one of many attempts being made to hack into the WHO. The chief information security officer for the organization Flavio Aggio told Reuters that hacking attempts and impersonations have doubled since the coronavirus outbreak.

Similar attempted hacks against other healthcare organizations are popping up every day. Costin Raiu, head of global research and analysis at Kaspersky, told Reuters that “any information about cures or tests or vaccines relating to coronavirus would be priceless and the priority of any intelligence organization of an affected country.”

Ransomware Attack Against HMR

Unlike the attack on the WHO, a recent ransomware attack was successful in stealing information from a UK-based medical company, Hammersmith Medicines Research (HMR). The company, which performs clinical trials of tests and vaccines, discovered an attack in progress on March 14th. While they were successful of restoring their systems, ransomware group called Maze took responsibility. On March 21st, Maze dumped the medical information of thousands of previous patients and threatened to release more documents unless HMR paid a ransom. HMR has not disclosed how the attack occurred, but have stated that they will not pay the ransom.

Four days after the initial attack, Maze released a statement saying they would not target medical organization during the coronavirus pandemic. Yet, this did not stop them from publicizing the stolen medical information a week later. After the attack gained publicity, Maze changed their tune. The group removed all of the stolen files from their website, but blamed the healthcare industry for their lack of security procedures: “We want to show that the system is unreliable. The cyber security is weak. The people who should care about the security of information are unreliable. We want to show that nobody cares about the users,” Maze said.

Conclusion

 Times of crisis and confusion are a hacker’s delight. The staggering increase of hacks against the healthcare industry only help prove that.  The key to mitigating these threats is to ensure that security configurations are set to industry best practices, continuously scan your networks, lock down or close open ports, secure or (preferably) remove Remote Desktop Protocol, and require Multi-Factor authentication for any remote access.  And certainly, make sure you are testing your incidence response plan.

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The SHIELD Act: New York’s Newest Cybersecurity Regulation:

Other than California, New York now has some of the strictest cybersecurity regulations in the U.S. In 2017, New York passed a bill that regulates data privacy for the financial services. Now, the Stop Hacks and Improve Electronic Data Security Act (SHIELD Act) is in effect as of March 21st. Unlike previous legislation, compliance is not limited to specific industries and pertains to any business that processes the personal information of New York residents. And, despite the current pandemic, lawmakers have not delayed the implementation of the new law.

Here is what you need to know to ensure compliance with the SHEILD Act.

Protected Data

Much of the data protected under the SHIELD act is already covered by the state’s breach notification laws. This includes social security numbers, driver license numbers, account numbers, and debit and credit card numbers. However, the new regulation expands the definition of protected data by also including biometric data, and email addresses in combination with passwords or security questions and answers.

The SHIELD Act also expands the definition of a security breach. A breach is considered to occur not just if an unauthorized person takes or uses private information, but also if that data is accessible to anyone not considered authorized to view that information. There are many examples of where this could possibly take place, including providing access of sensitive information to third party vendors who do not need to access that information or having the credentials of an email account compromised even though there was no sensitive data in the email folder.

Security Requirements

The SHIELD Act also lays out a series of cybersecurity protections needed to maintain compliance with the regulation. Broadly, the act requires businesses to put in place “reasonable safeguards” to ensure the privacy of their information. However, the regulation also requires organizations to maintain a written cybersecurity policy. One of the unique requirements of the policy is that organization must have at least one employee dedicated to maintaining cybersecurity procedures. In addition, cybersecurity policies need to address the following:

  • Identification of internal and external security risks
  • Assessment of the ability of technical safeguards to protect against identified risks
  • The training of employees on security practices
  • Reviewing security practices of third party vendors
  • Proper detection and response to unauthorized access
  • Regular testing of security controls
  • Secure disposal of protected information within a reasonable time frame.

Conclusion

There are certain businesses that do not need to meet these exact security requirements. Small businesses with under 50 employees, for example, are exempt if they can demonstrate they have taken reasonable steps to ensure the privacy of their information. In addition, organization already regulated by other privacy laws such as HIPAA, Graham-Leach-Bliley Act, or New York Department of Financial Services regulations are covered if they maintain compliance with these other regulations.

Because the scope of the SHIELD Act is so broad and could affect many businesses outside of New York, it is very important for all organizations to carefully review the new regulation. New York is likely to begin enforcement of the regulations very soon, and non-compliant business may receive fines of $5,000 per violation with no penalty caps.

However, even businesses not affected by the SHIELD Act should think seriously about implementing some of the recommended security measures. More and more states are beginning to implement similar regulations, and the burden of implementation could be costly if it is left to the last minute.

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Coronavirus and the Right to Privacy

 The coronavirus has unquestionably changed the way we live. It has also forced us into strange and, until just a few weeks ago, unthinkable ethical dilemmas. To visit loved ones is worth genuine ethical reflection. Modern nations, especially in the West, are built on an ethics of individual freedoms and the right to privacy. However, the current global health crisis is forcing us to rethink just how fundamental those ethics should be. While we already feel this with regards to the freedom of movement, we are just beginning to contemplate how the coronavirus can and should effect our right to privacy.

Contact Tracing and Enforced Quarantine

In order to limit the spread of the coronavirus, experts emphasize the importance of tracking every contact infected patients have had with others. Countries such as China, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan have all taken aggressive measure trace all potential contact infected people have had. These measures are widely considered to be a large reason why these countries have been successful in lowering the rate of transmission. However, the aggressive measures taken have come at the cost of individual privacies.

Taiwan and Singapore, for example, regularly post detailed information about everyone who test positive, including where they live and work, what train stations they have used, and what bars and restaurants they frequent. South Korea now has an app that allows users to track the exactly movement of those infected.

Countries are also using location data to enforce quarantine for those infected. Israel, for example, is now using data collection techniques previously used for counterterrorism efforts to identify anyone potentially exposed to the virus. The government uses this information to send text messages to those exposed ordering them to quarantine.

European and the U.S. Response

As the coronavirus spreads to Europe and the U.S., lawmakers are exploring the use of similar techniques. Italy now uses location data to monitor whether people are obeying quarantine orders. In the U.S., the White House is reportedly in conversations with tech companies to use anonymized location data to track the spread of the virus. HIPPA regulations are being waived to allow doctors and mental health providers to more freely use telecommunication to speak with patients. Companies in Italy, Austria, and Germany have also announced that they will provide location data to governments.

However, with privacy regulations such as the GDPR, it is unclear how aggressively European countries will be able to use personal information. The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) released a statement urging governments to continue to abide by privacy regulations in place. At the same time, however, the EDPB conceded that countries may suspend such regulations “when processing is necessary for reasons of substantial public interest in the area of public health.”

Consequences

Relaxing the right to privacy has garnered mixed responses by government officials and security experts. Many have pointed out that while the measures taken are extreme, personal information such as location data is highly effective in limiting the spread of the coronavirus. “We are stretched very thin in most states,” said the director of the Center for Global Health at Oregon State University, “so this kind of technology can help every state to prioritize, given their limited resources, which communities, which areas, need more aggressive tracking and testing.”

Others are concerned how this could endanger those whose information is made public. In South Korea, some have used information released by the government to identify infected individuals and attack them online. This has led officials to question how the government uses this information, worrying it will discourage others from getting tested for fear of being publicly exposed.

While nearly all countries have explained suspending the right to privacy is a temporary measure for the benefit of the public health, many worry it will have a permanent effect on how governments and countries view privacy concerns. After 9/11, for example, the U.S. used highly invasive surveillance measures that have since become common place among law enforcement agencies. According to the New York Times, privacy experts worry something similar could happen after the current crisis.

What restrictions we, as a society, can tolerate, and what effect this will have after the current crisis remains an open question. However, it may also involve a false choice.  There are technologies to both assist contract tracing and preserve anonymity.  Privacy by Design does not have to be put on pause as we develop these tools.  In fact, if we want to encourage wide adoption, it might be required.

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A Breach of Breaches Past

A breach of breaches past has come back to haunt us. Last week, a cybersecurity expert discovered a that a collection of over 5 billion records from previous data dumps were left exposed and publicly accessible. What’s worse, the exposure occurred at the hands of a cybersecurity firm, Keepnet Labs. Because all of the data was previously exposed, no new information was put at risk. However, the size and sensitive nature of the data involved could lead to renewed risk for victims of previous breaches

What was Exposed and How?

The London-based security firm created a database of exposed information from some of the biggest data dumps between 2012 and 2019. This includes records from well-known data dumps such as Adobe, Last.FM, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others. What’s more, the records within the database includes some highly-sensitive such as emails and passwords. The exact reason for compiling this database is not yet clear.

Keepnet Exposed Database

The incident was not the result of any malicious action. Instead, Keepnet Labs placed the records in Elasticsearch, an open source data and analytics search engine, and neglected to use any password protection or firewalls to keep the database private.

The lack of such basic protections may be because Elasticsearch’s security features are disabled by default. In fact, Elasticsearch has suffered a series of similar breaches within the past few years. Only two months ago, 250 million records of Microsoft customers were exposed through similar misconfigurations on Elasticsearch servers. Given amount and size of these exposures, it is unclear why Elasticsearch has not taken more steps to ensure the security of their services.

Consequences

Just because the data involved in this breach has all been previously leaked does not mean this incident isn’t something to be concerned about. According to reports, the records are extremely well structured, and the sheer size of the database makes the information easily accessible for hackers to use in phishing schemes or to resell online. This could lead to those whose records were previously exposed see a renewal of fraud attempts in the upcoming months.

Want to see if the breach of breaches past could come back to haunt you? We recommend going to haveibeenpwned.com. The website allows you to search any email address or passwords you have used to see if your information was exposed in previous breaches, including many of the breaches involved in Keepnet Lab’s database.

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Hacker Fails

Recently, we’ve written a series of articles looking the at various ways the coronavirus intersects with cybersecurity concerns. And while we don’t want to downplay the importance of maintaining cybersecurity practices throughout the crisis, we could all use a little distraction from time to time. So, we decided to have some fun today. And what is more fun than hearing stories about hackers who completely and totally messed up? So, without further ado, we present three major hacker fails to keep your mind off the news for a few minutes.

Hacker Fail #1: The Spy Who Hacked Me (Then Posted it on YouTube)

This should go without saying, but if you’re going to install malware on hospital computers, you probably shouldn’t upload a video of yourself doing it. As it happens, that is exactly what Jesse William McGraw did. McGraw was a night security guard at Northern Central Medical Plaza in Dallas. One night he decided to film a video of himself pretending to be a spy who was infiltrating the premises (with James Bond music and all). Of course, as a security guard, he had access to the entire building and wasn’t actually doing anything illegal. That is, until he started installing malware on a dozen of the hospital’s computers.

Authorities quickly arrested McGraw and discovered he was actually the leader of a hacking group called the Electronik Tribulation Army. For his part, McGraw was sentenced to 9 years in prison and ordered to pay over $30,000 in restitution.

Hacker Fail #2: VPN FML

This story involves one of the most news-worthy cyber-attacks in the past few years: and hack and leak of emails from the Democratic National Committee. The documents were leaked online over the course of few months by a hacker calling himself Guccifer 2.0. While leaking the documents, Guccifer portrayed himself as a lone hacker conducted the attack for the fun of it.

Of course, we know now that this hack was instead conducted by the Russian government, specifically the GRU, Russia’s intelligence agency. As it turned out, tracing the hack back to the GRU didn’t take much work because Guccifer made a very simple mistake: he forgot to turn on his VPN. VPN’s help users stay anonymous online by connecting to the internet using shared IP addresses. Guccifer routinely used a VPN to cover his tracks online, but at one point simply forgot to turn it on before logging onto a social media site. The mistake allowed authorities to trace the hackers location directly back to GRU headquarters.

And the rest, they say, is quite literally history.

Hacker Fail #3: Hoist with his own petard

We saved the stupidest for last. For a while now, a transcript of a chat between hackers has been passed around the internet. In the chat, two rivals hackers were arguing with one another and threatening to attack the other. One of the hackers claimed to be using a program that allowed him to remotely delete a hard drive by simply entering in the target’s IP address. Calling his bluff, the other hacker shared his IP in the chat. However, instead of giving his actually IP, he gave him a loopback address that pointed right back at the would-be hacker’s own computer. So, when he ran the IP address through the program, he ended up wiping out his own hard drive instead of his rival’s.

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