United States: Health Care Employees At The Frontline In The Battle Against Ransomware

As recent noteworthy attacks have shown, no health care organization or provider is safe from ransomware threats, and the results of an attack can be devastating. Ransomware is a virus which limits or eliminates access to data and typically is introduced into a computer system by acceptance of an electronic communication. Once the virus is deployed, the owner is charged a ransom to regain the data or access to it. By many reports, ransomware has already caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, with no end in sight. Nearly fifty percent of victims have paid to recover access to their data. Nearly forty percent of those victims expect to be attacked again in the future. Given the ease with which ransomware can be propagated, the effectiveness of attacks, the untraceable ransom payments, and very low risk to the perpetrator of ever being brought to justice, we can expect a continuing rise in these types of attacks.

Health care providers, particularly senior executives, officers, and directors, have a legal obligation to adopt procedures and policies to proactively address these information security threats and protect patient data at all costs. Failure to do so may give rise to legal and regulatory liability, loss of stock value, loss of revenue, and damage to business reputation. And yet, one of the most effective means of reducing the threat of ransomware is often overlooked: employee training and education.

Employees at the Frontline

In many recent attacks, the initial entry point into the target organization has been attributed to employees who have clicked on attachments or hyperlinks in e-mail or on websites that provide the means of compromising their employer's systems.

Even highly sophisticated personnel can be at risk. Consider a simple example: A hacker decides to target the cardiologists at a large hospital. The hacker trolls the hospital's website for the names of its cardiologists; the hacker then searches the web for a nationally recognized cardiology researcher; next, the hacker inserts a piece of ransomware into a PDF file with the title "draft article"; and finally, the hacker spoofs a message from the cardiology researcher to each of the hospital's cardiologists asking for input on a draft article. It is highly likely that one or more cardiologist will click on that PDF within a few hours, allowing the ransomware to insinuate itself into the hospital's systems.

Training is Key

There is no question that proper employee education and training could avoid many ransomware attacks. However, most training in this area amounts to little more than a handout provided to employees or, at best, a lunch-time presentation. The knowledge is quickly lost. To be effective, training and associated vigilance needs to be repeated periodically so that the information is truly internalized.

Below is a useful checklist to educate employees and encourage shared responsibility for information security. By keeping these measures in mind, employees can dramatically increase, not only the security of their employer's systems and data, but also their own personal computers and data. All too frequently, the security of one can impact the other.

This checklist is intended to supplement, not replace, a business' formal security and information protection policies and procedures.

Web Sites, Social Media, and Public E-mail

  • Don't get hooked on someone's phishing line. Do not reply to or click on links in emails, pop-ups, or websites that ask for personal information, financial information, health information. Never click on links or open files in an e-mail from someone you do not know or weren't expecting.
  • Always proceed with the understanding that no public e-mail or messaging service (e.g., services provided by online services such as Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Skype, and others) is secure and that all communications will be stored and, potentially, viewed by others.
  • Avoid sending highly sensitive information through unsecured e-mail, texts, or other communications (e.g., Gmail, Yahoo mail, text apps on smartphones, etc.).
  • Do not forward internal email, documents, or other information to a personal email address or download to personal devices for access outside of your employer's systems. Your employer cannot protect the information once it's been removed or shared outside of our systems.
  • Do not send emails to an email address you do not recognize. Your employer will not ask you to send confidential or sensitive information to an unknown email. If you are unsure, then pick up the phone and verify with the sender before hitting send.
  • When submitting personal or other sensitive information via a website, make sure you see the site's address begin with https, as opposed to http. Think "s" stands for secure. Https uses encryption to send information across the Internet, thus, reducing the risk that the information will be improperly accessed.
  • Think before you submit. Once submitted to a web site or transmitted through an online communication service, the information is public. You never know where the information will show up. There is no such thing as deleting information from the internet. The internet is forever.
  • Exercise caution using services and devices that record your communications (e.g., Google Voice, Siri, Cortana, Skype, VOIP applications, mobile app-based texting, etc.).
  • Before posting pictures and videos online, remember they may contain GPS data showing where the picture was taken.
  • Be mindful of backup applications running on personal devices (e.g., DropBox, iCloud, Carbonite, etc.) making copies of sensitive company information and storing them online.
  • Think before you open. If you don't know the sender, unsure of why the attachment was sent, or if it looks suspicious, don't open the attachment. Better to verify with the sender then infect your computer, or worse, the network.
  • PDF files are a very popular way of distributing viruses. Before opening a PDF, be sure you know where it came from.
  • When installing apps on your smartphone be cautious of requests to access your calendar, contacts, texts, GPS, and other data. In many, if not most, instances, there is no reason for these apps to have access to your data and, in almost all instances, whatever you choose to share will likely be analyzed and sold to others.

Only Authorized Software

  • Do not download or install unauthorized or unapproved software or applications from the Internet.
  • In particular, never install encryption software, remote access, backup or other similar software without the expressly approval of our information security personnel.
  • Always be certain of the source of downloaded software (i.e., you are actually getting the software from the true creator of the software). It is common for hackers to create fake web sites and even "hijack" visitors from official web sites where applications can be downloaded. In some instances, the top search results for piece of software on Google and other search engines point to disguised hacker web sites where your personal information may be stolen and viruses propagated.
  • For your personal computers, make sure you have anti-virus and firewall software installed. There are many inexpensive complete security packages available for home systems. Also, always promptly install security and other updates to your personal computer and mobile device operating systems.

Be Constantly Vigilant

  • Be suspicious of calls from unrecognized numbers alleging to be security or other officials asking for confidential information, including account access credentials and passwords. Look up the person calling and call them back at their published number.
  • Never reveal personal or business account access credentials or passwords in e-mail or telephonically. No valid security personnel will ever ask you to reveal that information using either of these methods.
  • Be wary of urgent requests to issue checks or take action to avoid some issue without confirming the source.
  • Monitor the physical security of laptops, smartphones, and other mobile devices.
  • Avoid using public internet Wi-Fi to access company systems without use of a secure virtual private network.
  • If something is suspicious, report it.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions