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Don't let your data be held hostage

Published 16 October 2020

Career criminals are opportunistic by nature and hurried implementations of COVID-friendly clinical workflows can create tempting opportunities to attack valuable health and business data if not well secured.

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malware that holds data hostage by encrypting it or locking users out of systems until a ransom is paid. In other words, it’s a form of online extortion.

The latest Australian Cyber Security Centre threat report1 describes ransomware as the most threatening variety of cybercrime, noting that:

Ransomware requires minimal technical expertise, is low cost and can result in significant impact to an organisation, potentially crippling core business functions.

This report further notes that cybercrime is becoming increasingly sophisticated, evolving away from isolated efforts to an almost routine service:

There are numerous adversaries offering various cybercrime techniques and tools through dark web marketplaces. This is referred to as cybercrime-as-a-service, enabling traditional organised crime groups to quickly and easily begin generating alternative income streams. Over the last 12 months, ransomware has become one of the most significant cyber threats facing the operation of private-sector organisations.

The healthcare sector stands out as a tempting target because of the critical nature of healthcare services and the high value placed on health data in the black market. So, now is a good time to learn how to defend yourself and your organisation against these threats.

Digital self-defence Defending yourself and your business from attacks, such as ransomware, is a lot easier than getting your black-belt in karate.

  • Learn the fundamentals of security awareness with the Agency’s free online Digital Health Security Awareness course.
  • Keep your software up to date (PDF, 431.12 KB) (i.e. install patches) to maximise the security of your systems and applications – fixing security flaws by installing updates can prevent attackers from using these vulnerabilities to attack your system.
  • Be sure to back up your data regularly (PDF, 501.81 KB), keeping at least one copy in a form that is either not connected to the internet, not writable, or both. This will help you to recover from ransomware attacks, as well as guarding against other types of IT problems such as hard drive failures.
  • We recommend you do not pay the ransom. Payment doesn’t guarantee that your data will be restored, and it motivates the cyber criminals to attack again at a later date.

More information

Australian Digital Health Agency

Australian Cyber Security Centre

  1. ACSC Annual Cyber Threat Report, July 2019 to June 2020 can be found here.

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