FBI warns ransomware assault threatens US healthcare system

National News

BOSTON (AP) — Federal agencies warned that cybercriminals are unleashing a major ransomware assault against the U.S. healthcare system. Independent security experts say it has already hobbled at least four U.S. hospitals this month, and could potentially impact hundreds more.

In a joint alert Wednesday, the FBI and two federal agencies warned that they had “credible information of an increased and imminent cybercrime threat to U.S. hospitals and healthcare providers.” They said “malicious cyber actors” are targeting the sector with ransomware that could lead to “data theft and disruption of healthcare services.”

The attacks coincide with the U.S. presidential election, but do not appear to have any connection to it.

“We are experiencing the most significant cyber security threat we’ve ever seen in the United States,” Charles Carmakal, chief technical officer of the cybersecurity firm Mandiant, said in a statement. He’s concerned that the group may deploy malware to hundreds of hospitals over the next few weeks.

Alex Holden, CEO of Hold Security, which has been closely tracking the ransomware in question for more than a year, agreed that the unfolding offensive is unprecedented in magnitude for the U.S. Administrative problems caused by ransomware, which scrambles data into gibberish that can only be unlocked with software keys provided once targets pay up, could further stress hospitals burdened by a nationwide spike in COVID-19 cases.

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