Healthcare firms lose ground vs ransomware attacks

Cybercriminals successfully encrypted data in nearly 75% of ransomware attacks against healthcare organisations, the highest rate in the past three years and a significant increase from the 61% reported last year.

This is from the State of Ransomware 2023 report, based on a survey of 3,000 IT/cybersecurity leaders in organisations with between 100 and 5,000 employees, including 233 from the healthcare sector, across 14 countries in the Americas; Europe, the Middle East and Africa; and the Asia-Pacific region.

Findings also show that only 24% of healthcare organisations were able to disrupt a ransomware attack before the attackers encrypted their data, down from 34% in 2022. This is the lowest rate of disruption reported by the sector over the past three years.

Chester Wisniewski, director and global field CTO at Sophos, said that the percentage of organisations that successfully stop an attack before encryption is a strong indicator of security maturity. 

“For the healthcare sector, however, this number is quite low—only 24%,” said Wisniewski. “What’s more, this number is declining, which suggests the sector is actively losing ground against cyberattackers and is increasingly unable to detect and stop an attack in progress.

He said part of the problem is that ransomware attacks continue to grow in sophistication, and the attackers are speeding up their attack timelines. 

In the latest Active Adversary Report for Tech Leaders, Sophos found that the median time from the start of a ransomware attack to detection was only five days. Also, 90% of ransomware attacks took place after regular business hours. 

“The ransomware threat has simply become too complex for most companies to go at it alone,” Wisniewski said. “All organisations, especially those in healthcare, need to modernise their defensive approach to cybercrime, moving from being solely preventative to actively monitoring and investigating alerts 24/7 and securing outside help in the form of services like managed detection and response (MDR).”

The survey also revealed that in 37% of ransomware attacks where data was successfully encrypted, data was also stolen, suggesting a rise in the “double dip” method.

Healthcare organisations are now taking longer to recover, with 47% recovering in a week, compared to 54% last year.

The overall number of ransomware attacks against healthcare organisations surveyed declined from 66% in 2022 to 60% this year.

Compromised credentials were the number one root cause of ransomware attacks against healthcare organizations, followed by exploits.

The number of healthcare organisations surveyed that paid ransom payments declined from 61% last year to 42% this year. This is lower than the cross-sector average of 46%.