WannaCryptor anniversary shines a light on the impact ransomware can have on healthcare

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While descriptions like “overshadowed by” or “back in the day…” come to mind when raising the topic of the 2107 WannaCryptor ransomware attack in 2020, we shouldn’t forget how vulnerable institutions and businesses alike found themselves that May. And, while billions of dollars in revenue were lost, other revelations are more disturbing, especially the link between IT preparedness and lives at risk that was made plain across healthcare systems the world over.


<image 1> Detection of the exploit: EternalBlue, which provided the basis for the WannaCryptor ransomware, has been growing in prevalence since 2017.

WannaCryptor can still impress
At present, against a backdrop of strained healthcare systems globally, the ever-present specter of ransomware puts into focus precisely how important good security practice and customer/vendor relationships are.

While some cybercriminal groups have stated publicly that they will refrain from targeting hospitals and other critical institutions with ransomware during the coronavirus lockdown, others may have no such qualms.

In either case, as long as there are people willing to deploy malicious software for financial gain, hospitals and other healthcare infrastructure are at risk. During the WannaCryptor outbreak on May 12, 2017, the infiltration method used by WannaCryptor’s authors was not successful on devices protected by ESET as one of our multiple protection layers – Network Attack Protection – blocked the threat at its point of entry. Despite that, the authors created a formula that impacted more than 300,000 PCs globally, causing serious impacts to services at thousands of hospitals, the UK’s NHS and many other organizations.

Trust Relationships
Wisdom says, “always make it your business to know a lawyer, a banker and a doctor.” These three occupations represent some of the most needed business relationships that practically anyone will need to leverage in their lives. However, because the interactions you share with these service providers are generally considered confidential, they also betray the value of data shared and kept in documentation of these relationships. Limiting ourselves to just ransomware attacks and data theft, we can appreciate how directly our lives can be targeted.

Yet, these relationships will go on. And while WannaCryptor gave us a very strong reminder of how valuable our digital points of contact are, the new normal introduced by the coronavirus has now escalated that importance. And as we all try to limit exposure, movements and unnecessary meetings in person, each digital engagement (especially in these areas) becomes more critical.

Protecting your trust relationships
Use a quality cybersecurity product. With so much of our lives relegated to the digital world, not using internet protection is akin to driving with no seatbelt. Multilayered cybersecurity products like ESET Internet Security weave together several layers of protection to minimize risks encountered by users. These are powered by research from some of the most highly recognized experts in the industry who are supported by an ESET-built machine learning engine helping them rapidly classify emerging threats and increase user protections.

No matter whether you run a Mac, Windows, Android or Linux machine, our protection includes special features to protect  online banking and payments, webcams and visibility into smart home network as well as vulnerability of IoT devices. It also provides protection specifically against clear and present threats like phishing and ransomware.

Our premium product, updated in October 2019, takes protection a step further. Among other features, it provides encryption for your sensitive data and a password manager to help organize and safeguard critical digital contact points.

Why anniversaries are kept
Not big on birthdays? Some dates, such as wedding anniversaries, do provide a service. Remembering dates plays a role in self-reflection and evaluation of what is important. Ironically, three years ago, when the world was stunned by WannaCryptor’s spread, the reaction was not, “Let’s reinvigorate digitalization!” However, now, despite its biological origins, the coronavirus has succeeded where WannaCryptor’s human engineering failed – in pushing users to take further steps to stay safe online.