January 20, 2023

Study shows ransomware attacks against healthcare are on the rise

By: Tarsilla Moura
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Editor's Note

In this study conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota and by Beth Virnig, PhD, MPH, dean of the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions, data shows that ransomware attacks on healthcare organizations have more than doubled from 2016 to 2021, Healthcare Purchasing News January 19 reports.

The researchers reported in the JAMA Health Forum that 374 ransomware attacks have been carried out “against clinics, hospitals, dental offices, diagnostic laboratories, emergency medical services, and other healthcare delivery organizations between 2016 and 2021.” In that time frame, the number of annual attacks rose from 43 to 91, exposing the personal health information of some 42 million patients.

“Unlike other data breaches that may be intended only to steal data, ransomware attacks introduce malware into organizations’ electronic systems that is designed to disrupt operations until payment demands are met” and are one of healthcare’s biggest security concerns, the article noted. Almost half of ransomware attacks during the study period affected healthcare delivery, the study found, with disruptions leading to downtime of electronic systems and resulting in cancelled procedures and diverted ambulances.

The researchers also found that ransomware attacks on healthcare organizations have become “increasingly sophisticated,” and that “stolen patient data were more likely to become public.”

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