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Is Having A "Gold Image" The Key To Defeating Ransomware?

A recent ransomware cyberattack on a German hospital is thought to have led to the death of a patient. This is the first known death attributed to a cyberattack, which experts say is surprising, given the increasing number of attacks over the past few years.

Because network systems are critical to health care work, they are prime targets for cybercriminals. Surveys reveal that 75 percent of hospital administrators are willing to pay the ransom to unlock their network. In addition, many insurance providers recommend paying the ransom, as it is still cheaper than the clean-up and recovery process.

Last year, the U.S. saw a record number of health care facilities hit by ransomware, resulting in canceled medical procedures, lost medical records and interrupted emergency services. The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic led to a slight drop in attacks the first half of 2020, but attacks have now returned to pre-pandemic rates of attack.

In September, a New Jersey hospital fell victim to an attack in which the cybercriminals published medical records on the Internet. This relatively new risk of leaked data can be found in almost 10 percent of attacks, according to a firm that tracks cyberattacks. It is an unsettling evolution because all health care providers are obligated to keep medical information confidential.

Network security experts hope these recent attacks, and the one resulting death, will awaken hospital IT administrators to the urgent need to prioritize system security. Melissa Eddy and Nicole Periroth "Cyber Attack Suspected in German Woman's Death" (Sep. 18, 2020).


As noted in the above article, many victims of a cyberattack find that paying the ransom is cheaper than taking steps to restore the system. However, as more organizations decide to pay, cyberattacks will not only increase in number, but cybercriminals will ask for increasingly larger ransom amounts. With the added risk of public exposure of medical information, it is clear that prevention and protection must be the primary step in system security.

Training employees on safe user behaviors is key because user behavior is a primary cause of ransomware infection.

In addition, backing up data is fundamental.

In addition to backing up of collected data, security experts suggest creating a backup of systems and configurations, also called a “gold image.” When a system is infected with ransomware, the “gold image” back up will quickly reset the system to before infection, and the data backup will provide up-to-date medical information.

A comprehensive and updated back up, along with a detailed plan of response, will deter cybercriminals from targeting your organization, and put you back in control of your network systems.

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