FBI warning against cyber attacks on U.S. healthcare systems

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The FBI is warning that cyber criminals are targeting U.S. healthcare systems with ransomware attacks, but what is ransomware?

“It encrypts your data and unless you pay a ransom, usually in the form of bitcoin, the attackers to do not release your data,” UNCW Information Systems Professor and Director of Cyber Defense Education Ulku Clark said.

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Clark says the technical side is usually easier to secure.

“There are a lot of very talented professionals, IT professionals, that will install cyber security safeguards,” Clark said. “However, the weakest link is unfortunately the people.”

Clark says it’s important for people to make sure they aren’t clicking on any unfamiliar links. This could download malware onto your computer, giving hackers access to your information.

For IT professionals it’s especially important to make sure all software is up to date, especially since so much of our lives are digital now. From telemedicine appointments to zoom meetings.

“Cyber hygiene is very important,” Clark said. “They know what they are doing, they are not clicking on the wrong links.”

Clark says the best defense against cyber attacks is to educate yourself. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) is a great resource, as well as UNCW’s Center for Cyber Defense Education.

New Hanover Regional Medical Center released the following statement about the attacks.

“NHRMC’s Information Services Security Department is responsible for establishing a proactive and comprehensive cybersecurity program for the healthcare system. As part of the proactive focus, our teams prepare for emerging security threats. Our Information Security team stays in constant communication with our vendor partners, government agencies, and peer organizations to share information and ensure we remain vigilant against ever-emerging cybersecurity threats.”

A spokesperson for Novant Health says, “Novant Health has a robust cybersecurity capability that flexibly adapts to new threat sources. We are aware of the current threat to healthcare systems, and have taken necessary precautions to ensure our patients and team members are protected from these malicious entities.