A Bitcoin ransom malware recently rattled its way into the systems of a Kentucky-based hospital, resulting into a chaotic data lockdown.
Methodist Hospital, a nonprofit healthcare facility located in Henderson, confirmed that a “computer virus” sneaked into their IT systems to disbar authorities from accessing patients’ data. The attacker, as further reported, agreed to allow access to hospital data only if a ransom of 4 BTC (equivalent to around $USD1,600) is paid.
The director of Methodist Hospital’s Information Systems further revealed the characteristics of the malware that effected their computers, stating that it came through a MS-Word file, and tried to spread throughout the hospital’s IT network. Locky, as the malware is called, ended up infecting a good number of computers in the end. The systems were then individually scanned for data breach, while the uninfected ones were brought online.
Methodist Hospital’s attorney David Park later confirmed that they may end up paying the hacker with Bitcoin. He, however, also planned to keep this decision as their final resort — if the legal authorities find it difficult to decrypt their systems.
Methodist Hospital is now working with the Federal Bureau.
Of Bitcoin, Ransomware and Hospitals
The case of Methodist Hospital is far from unique, for the Bitcoin ransomware attacks are gaining a strong foothold online. Earlier this year, the data of California’s Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center was also held for Bitcoin ransom. The hospital ended up paying around $USD17,000 in Bitcoin to regain access to their IT systems.
A similar Bitcoin ransomware has also attacked two hospitals — Klinikum Arnsberg and Lukas Hospital — in Germany.
While Bitcoin has surely become a medium of exchanging values between the victim and the attacker, the digital currency still stands out as pseudo-anonymous. It is contrary to popular beliefs that consider Bitcoin is a fully-anonymous way of transacting money. Earlier, many darknet markets using Bitcoin as primary mode of payment were traced and lock-downed by authorities, with Silk Road being the most famous case.