Hackers hold patient medical records for ransom, demand $4,200

By on December 12, 2012, 8:30 AM

A group of hackers broke into the Miami Family Medical Centre in Australia and are now holding all of their patient’s medical records for ransom. The hackers didn’t physically take or delete the files but they have encrypted them and are demanding a sum of 4,000 Australian dollars, or roughly $4,196 in exchange for the key.

Without the necessary decryption key, the data is essentially useless to the medical staff. It goes without saying that it would be next to impossible to carry on day-to-day operations at the medical facility without access to patient records.

Miami Family Medical Centre co-owner David Wood said the computers containing the records had the latest antivirus updates and that there is no sign of a virus. He said the attackers literally got in, hijacked the server and executed the code to encrypt the medical files.

$4,200 may not sound like a huge ransom, especially if people’s medical files are at stake. At first thought, the most logical solution would be to just pay the money and move on. But according to former investigator with the Australian High-Tech Crime Centre Nigel Phair, it’s hardly ever that easy. Once a company or an individual pays a ransom, the attackers usually demand even more money in an attempt to see how much cash they can get out of the victim.

It seems the only other option at this point is to hire an independent consultant to see if they can defeat the encryption. One would have to assume that the center didn’t have the data backed up anywhere else. Or as Wood suggests, don’t keep your backups connected to the server.

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