The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, FBI and Department of Health and Human Services Friday said they consider the recent ransomware threat to the health care sector to be credible, ongoing and persistent.

“Of note, some recent healthcare sector victims have experienced very short periods of time between initial compromise and activation – even under a few hours,” the agencies said.

The update urges health care organizations to “work toward enduring and operationally sustainable protections,” noting that some recent victims “have experienced very short periods of time between initial compromise and activation – even under a few hours. In general, maintaining anti-ransomware best practices like the 3-2-1 backup system or conducting regular vulnerability scanning to identify and address vulnerabilities will help protect your organization against future threats from other ransomware operators. Organizations should balance their operational needs with the current threat level and develop processes and postures for normal operating status and higher threat periods. The threat from ransomware is ongoing and entities should develop effective deterrent procedures while maintaining effective care delivery.”

John Riggi, AHA senior advisor for cyber and risk, said, “Based upon the accelerated attack cycle identified in this notice, it is recommended that organizational leaders incorporate in their incident response contingency plans, a very short time to react to a compromise and make possible critical containment decisions, such as shutting down key IT services and network connections.”   

For more on this and other hospital and health system cybersecurity and risk issues, contact Riggi at jriggi@aha.org.

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