Medical technology will be the next target of ransomware hackers, making it the top cybersecurity concern for 2016, research indicated Thursday. The research report warned attackers will banish doctors, or even patients, from the machines that are essential for life-saving tasks, and force them to pay a ransom if they wish to unlock the devices.
Various strains of ransomware infect computers via a malicious email attachment or another subtle, disguised method of infiltration. It then encrypts all of a user’s sensitive data, and hackers give victims a short time to pay a bitcoin ransom (often in the thousands of dollars) or risk having their most sensitive documents deleted forever. It generally targets Windows machines, and small businesses are increasingly at risk, but a Forrester research report obtained by Vice Motherboard Thursday showed the next concern is the medical industry.
“It’s definitely feasible from a technical standpoint,” medical device security researcher Billy Rios told Motherboard. “Given the urgency associated with these devices, I could see it as something that could happen next year. All that would be required from an attacker standpoint is small modifications to the malware to make it work.”
Thanks to a number of major breaches and the high value of of medical records on the online black market, the healthcare industry is already hacked more often than any other sector. Meanwhile the most advanced forms of ransomware are sophisticated enough to elude not just top cybersecurity professionals, but the FBI, which admitted last month agents often advise victimized businesses to just pay the ransom.