The U.S. government has warned hospitals and healthcare providers of an “increased and imminent” ransomware threat, which some experts have attributed to cybercriminals from Eastern Europe.
The alert was issued on Wednesday by the FBI, the DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The organizations say they’ve received credible information that threat actors are targeting the healthcare sector with the TrickBot malware in attacks that often lead to ransomware infections, data theft and disruption of healthcare services.
The alert focuses on TrickBot, particularly the Anchor evasion detection modules used in attacks aimed at high-profile organizations, and the Ryuk ransomware, which has often been delivered using the TrickBot botnet. Both TrickBot and Ryuk were previously linked to threat actors operating out of Russia.
Charles Carmakal, SVP and CTO of Mandiant, described it as “the most significant cyber security threat we’ve ever seen in the United States.”
“UNC1878, an Eastern European financially motivated threat actor, is deliberately targeting and disrupting U.S. hospitals, forcing them to divert patients to other healthcare providers. Patients may experience prolonged wait time to receive critical care,” Carmakal told SecurityWeek. “Multiple hospitals have already been significantly impacted by Ryuk ransomware and their networks have been taken offline. UNC1878 is one of most brazen, heartless, and disruptive threat actors I’ve observed over my career.”
While some ransomware operators have decided to avoid targeting healthcare organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic, that does not seem to be the case for Ryuk operators, who, according to what intelligence firm Hold Security told blogger Brian Krebs, have been planning on deploying ransomware at over 400 healthcare facilities in the United States.
According to various local media reports, several hospitals in the United States reported being hit by ransomware over the past days. A few weeks ago, hospital chain Universal Health Services reported that computers at all 250 of its US facilities were disrupted due to a cyberattacks that is believed to have involved Ryuk.
The TrickBot botnet was recently targeted for takedown by Microsoft and its partners, and in a separate operation by the U.S. government. While the operations appear to have been successful, at least to some extent, Ryuk attacks have continued.