Ransomware attacks are reaching record levels according to a research firm, crippling businesses and causing problems around the world.
Chainalysis, which specializes in supply chain analysis, said payments in 2023 related to ransomware attacks exceeded $1.1 billion.
A second study found that ransomware attacks on hospitals, like the one that reportedly hit Lurie Children’s Hospital, are also on the rise.
“People don’t realize how common these attacks are,” said Brett Callow, a threat analyst at Emsisoft. “It’s really very worrying.”
Emsisoft State of Ransomware in the United States The report found that 46 hospital systems were affected last year, up from 25 the year before.
“Ransomware operators are just predictable,” Callow said. “If they find a particular sector, a particular type of target that is a good investment for them, they will attack that target again and again.”
Ransomware attacks in hospitals can also be dangerous. A study called Hacked into pieces, by researchers at the University of Minnesota, found that ransomware attacks can affect patient outcomes.
“Ransomware attacks increase the in-hospital mortality rate for patients already admitted to hospitals attacked by ransomware on the date the attack was discovered,” the report said. “Mortality effects are more pronounced among hospital patients facing particularly severe ransomware attacks and among black patients. »
The study found that between 2016 and 2021, between 42 and 67 Medicare patients died from strokes at the hospitals studied.
Another growing target for cybercriminals: primary schools. Emsisoft found there were 108 attacks on K-12 school districts last year. There were only 45 in 2022. Callow said districts may not be wealthy, but they tend to carry cyber insurance that will pay ransom demands.
According to experts, the only way to stop the attacks is to stop paying.
“What we’re doing is funding our enemies and they’re getting better and better,” said Peter Nicoletti of Checkpoint Security.
Callow agreed with this assessment.
“Ransomware attacks happen for one reason only: They are very, very profitable for the people responsible for these attacks,” he said.
Lurie Children’s Hospital is open, but most of its phone and computer systems remain offline nearly two weeks after a confirmed cyberattack. The company is working with the FBI but has not yet publicly disclosed how it is approaching the “cybersecurity issue.”