The very real impact of malware

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Last week we saw the incredible impact malware can have on a system: NBC reported that a hospital in California had to move some patients to other hospitals and suffered major outages after a malware attack.

NBC reported that a doctor at the hospital explained that “the system was hacked and was being held for ransom.”

The exact nature of the malware is unclear at this time but the hospital suffered serious outages and had to resort to jammed fax lines, due to complete email outages.

Medical records were totally inaccessible and lab work, X-rays and CT scans could not be easily transmitted, seriously impacting patient care.

Time consuming recovery

Mark James, ESET IT Security Specialist, explains the true impact that malware can have and how that impact has changed over time.

“Malware at one time was very much about awareness: from messages on the screen to making things happen without your permission but visual none the less.

“Nowadays of course it’s all about stealth: for the average user it’s generally aimed at identity theft or financial loss and in the grand scale of things not life threatening.

“But when malware starts to affect our health then things get very real: malware when aimed at the medical industry could possibly cause harm or even death if it gets out of hand.

“In almost every aspect of business computers have become the flagstone of its existence. The day to day running involves data and keyboards for almost every employee so when it starts to go wrong it can and often does bring the business to a halt and in this case that does affect people’s lives.

“Communications and very important medical histories were not available due to malware holding the hospital to ransom.

“Sadly in this situation getting systems back online is time consuming as most of the time shutting down and working slowly through the system is the only way to ensure its removed.

“Good system backups will of course help but for this industry stopping it before it gets in is the priority.

“Typically in these situations the operating systems used are often older and maybe outdated, patching could cause downtime and may seemingly cause ‘more trouble than its worth’ but it’s a fact of computing these days and it has to be done.

“Segregating the network data and using a good regularly updating internet security product along with staff and user education about current attack methods will help to keep infection down to a minimum.”

Do you think we’ll see malware have more ‘real world’ impact?

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