The payouts have emboldened cybercriminals, who have been upping their ransom demands by millions of dollars in recent years. Last year, cybercriminals demanded $14 million worth of bitcoin in a ransomware attack that affected 110 nursing homes across the United States.
While there was a slight dip in attacks in the first six months of 2020, amid the pandemic, the onslaught has resumed pace. Just last week, the University Hospital in New Jersey was hit with ransomware, and subsequently saw patient medical records published on the internet.
Other major American health centers hit with ransomware this year were Boston’s Children’s Hospital, which saw more than 500 affiliate pediatric offices hit last February and, in June, Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, among the largest children’s hospitals in the United States.
According to Emsisoft, , nearly 10 percent of ransomware victims now see their data leaked online, a jarring development for hospitals, who are legally responsible for protecting medical data.
It is not clear whether cybercriminals intended to take University Hospital Düsseldorf’s systems hostage, or if the hospital was collateral damage in an attack on a university. The ransom note was addressed to Heinrich Heine University, which is affiliated with the hospital, not to the hospital itself.
Police in Düsseldorf contacted attackers via the ransom note to explain that the hospital, not the university, had been impacted, putting patients’ health at risk. Attackers stopped the attack and turned over the encryption key to unlock the data — a development that also appears to be the first of its kind — before dropping correspondence.
German prosecutors are now investigating possible manslaughter charges against the cybercriminals. But it is highly unlikely arrests will be made. The vast majority of ransomware outfits are based in Russia, where authorities have protected hackers from extradition.