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Cryptomining Supplants Ransomware as the Leading Cyber Threat in Healthcare

Enterprise Security Magazine | Friday, August 02, 2019

Cryptomining malware not only utilizes vital system resources but also overheats the components and leads to system failures.

FREMONT, CA – The rising popularity of cryptocurrency has spurred the proliferation of cryptocurrency mining malware. Check Point, an established security firm, recently ranked it among the first three in its top threats list. Although cryptomining enables hackers to earn digital currency legitimately, it consumes significant computing power, bandwidth, and electricity. Hence, the primary aim of cryptominers is to steal computing resources from their victims.

Cryptomining malware is designed to perform online mining whenever users visit web pages, web services, or apps. They operate without the knowledge or permission of the users. Some persistent malware will continue to eat away at the resources even after the user has logged out from the web. The implanted JavaScript utilizes substantial computational power from the end-users and might also crash the system.

Healthcare organizations are not specific targets of cryptominers. However, they are most vulnerable, considering the sensitive data contained in their systems and the HIPAA compliance regulations. The Healthcare and Cross-Sector Cybersecurity Report by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) reveals that the cryptomining attacks had increased throughout the year 2018, whereas the ransomware attacks had decreased.

The medical staffs carry multiple connected devices with them, including personal accessories without the essential security features. Often, the devices can be connected with the healthcare organizations network. It offers a pathway for attackers to compromise patient records and critical medical systems which could affect the patient safety as well as the organization’s reputation.

Cyberattackers are developing innovative methods to embed malware in healthcare systems. It hints at a changing preference of cybercriminals toward crypto-jacking. In the year 2017, a hospital in Parsons, Tennessee, fell victim to a cryptomining attack. The malware compromised the personal health information of over 20,000 individuals in the EHR system.

Cryptominers usually target internet-connected devices comprising a CPU, the internet of things (IoT) systems, and mobile devices. Some malware is also designed to operate within the browser software and can be as catastrophic as ransomware attacks, especially if they end up crashing systems and compromising the medical data.

Since the cryptomining malware is designed to run in the background when the processors are relatively idle, the cryptomining process cannot be identified very easily. However, it is not untraceable. Cryptomining often causes the systems to lose performance, making mundane processes to take significant time. It can also cause system components to generate excessive heat, which can potentially result in system shut down, and sometimes, total system failure.

Organizations can monitor their regular traffic and CPU activity. Any deviations will enable them to identify the source of the problem, which could potentially be a cryptomining platform. The National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center advocates the deployment of anti-virus software and firewalls, updating and patching operating systems, reviewing system privileges, and educating employees regarding the threat of cryptomining.

The robust security measures implemented by the healthcare organizations have led to the fall of ransomware attacks. However, cryptomining has taken its place as the leading threat to healthcare organizations. Hence, it is imperative to leverage the latest technologies and efficient security solutions to protect healthcare devices against cryptominers.

See Also: Top Healthcare Technology Companies

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