Guidance For Protecting Health Care Computer Systems From Ransomware

The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), the federal agency responsible for providing cybersecurity protection to Federal civilian executive branch agencies through intrusion detection and prevention capabilities, has received multiple reports of "WannaCry" (also known as"WannaCrypt") ransomware infections in several countries around the world, including the U.S. Ransomware is a type of malicious software that infects a computer and restricts users' access to it until a ransom is paid to unlock the device. The cyber-attack has impacted at least 150 countries, and some of these infections are impacting patient access to care.

While the ransomware has not spread as widely in the U.S. as in Europe and Asia, all computers have the potential to be infected. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) is concerned about the potential effects on the U.S. health care system and patients, should the virus spread more widely. To that end, ONC has developed resources for health care providers with advice on how to prevent WannaCry infection and promote and implement best practices for computer safety into standard industry protocol. The ACC encourages members to carefully review the advice and ensure that steps have been taken to protect personal computers, as well as those owned and maintained by medical practices, hospitals and health systems.

Protect Yourself From WannaCry

WannaCry relies on a flaw in the Windows code, specifically Server Message Block 1.0 (SMBv1), which is used to share files. Microsoft issued a patch for this flaw on March 14. Review Microsoft's guidance for WannaCrypt for more information. Health care professionals should ensure that their computers' operating systems and anti-virus software are updated and patched.

It is very important for Windows users to allow their computers to automatically patch themselves when patches are released. If you have automatic updates enabled on your computer, you likely received the patch in March, but you should verify that the updates were received and are working properly. If you do not automatically receive updates, you should run Windows Update immediately, and ensure your computer is set to automatically download and install new updates for Windows and Microsoft Office software in the future. Do the same for your anti-virus software. If you are running older Microsoft software, such as Windows 2003, Windows XP or Windows 8, download the patch at Microsoft's technology website.

Protect Yourself From Ransomware

Vigilance and discipline are the strongest defenses against scams and ransomware. Adhere to the following guidelines to avoid being vulnerable to infection.

  • Only open emails that you are expecting from people you know and trusted sources.
  • Do not open email attachments from unknown, suspicious or untrustworthy sources.
  • Do not open an email attachment unless you know what it is, even if it appears to come from a known source.
  • Do not open any email ttachments if the subject line is questionable or generic.
  • For general advice on how to protect against ransomware, review US-CERT Alert TA16-091A.
  • Report ransomware incidents to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

Keywords: Computer Security, Computers, Crime, Electronic Mail, Internet, Medical Informatics

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