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Exploring the Ongoing Threat of DDOS Attacks on the Healthcare Sector


As technology increasingly pervades healthcare, data security has become an essential component of the industry. Without robust protective measures in place, our hospitals and medical facilities would be vulnerable to cyber threats.

According to Markets and Markets research, the global healthcare IT market will touch US$ 974.5 billion size by 2027.

Navigating through the constantly changing landscape of cyber threats has become a significant challenge for those within the healthcare sector. DDoS, ransomware, and persistent attacks from hacktivist groups are just some of the dangers posed to these organizations today. In order to ensure that their day-to-day operations remain secure and uninterrupted, healthcare firms must stay alert in strengthening their systems against such advanced strikes as DDoS.

What is a DDOS attack?

A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack is a sub-category of a Denial of Service (DoS) attack that disrupts the regular traffic of a server with unsolicited data packets generated by various infected systems controlled under a botnet. By flooding the system with uninvited traffic, it leads to system downtime.

DDoS attacks on healthcare sectors

The Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Center (HC3) has been warned that a hacktivist group called 'KillNet' is actively targeting the US healthcare sector with different Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. These cybercriminals are pro-Russian groups that have been active since January 2022. They target countries and their healthcare systems supporting Ukraine in the Ukraine-Russia war.

The report states, "DDoS is the primary type of cyber-attack employed by the group which can cause thousands of connection requests and packets to be sent to the target server or website per minute, slowing down or even stopping vulnerable systems. While KillNet's DDoS attacks usually do not cause major damage, they can cause service outages lasting several hours or even days."

Researchers found that one of the senior members of the cybercriminal group 'KillNet' threatened to sell health-related data due to the Congress' Ukraine policy. HC3 noted, "It is worth taking any claims KillNet makes about its attacks or operations with a grain of salt. Given the group's tendency to exaggerate, it is possible some of these announced operations and developments may only be to garner attention, both publicly and across the cybercrime underground." The US government investigated the incidents and found 48 domains associated with DDoS-for-hire services and immediately seized and blocked those services. 

HC3 said, "Despite this seizure, it remains unknown if (and how) this law enforcement action might impact KillNet, which turned its DDoS-for-hire service into a hacktivist operation earlier this year. Furthermore, it is likely that pro-Russian ransomware groups or operators, such as those from the defunct Conti group, will heed KillNet's call and provide support. This likely will result in entities KillNet targeted also being hit with ransomware or DDoS attacks as a means of extortion, a tactic several ransomware groups have used." All these attacks (using DDoS services and ransomware) pose a threat to healthcare and medical systems.

Securing IT infrastructure

Healthcare organizations and hospitals are particularly susceptible to cyber threats. Cybercriminals and adversaries look for exploits to breach healthcare systems to gain personal details about patients, doctors, and others or to commit medical fraud. Cybercriminal target outdated or legacy systems, scam staff with emails containing malware attachments, insecure and weak network services, or perform DDoS attacks to vandalize the system. Thus, business owners must take proactive measures to secure healthcare systems and IT infrastructure from cyberattacks.

Cybersecurity is a considerable concern in the healthcare sector, where criminals target legacy systems, scam personnel with malicious emails and attachments, exploit vulnerable network services or launch DDoS attacks to disrupt operations. To combat these serious threats, business owners must take proactive steps to safeguard their health care systems and IT infrastructure from cyber-attacks. Ensuring all software updates are performed regularly and that robust security measures - such as multi-factor authentication - are utilized will help protect you against these sophisticated risks.

Preventative measures for healthcare systems

  1. Application load balancers are great tools to prevent DDoS attacks by ignoring or aborting unnecessary traffic from illegitimate sources.

  2. Network monitoring is looks for malicious and suspicious activities in data packets and notifies the security professionals as soon as it identifies a red flag.

  3. Healthcare systems should back up their data (to protect against ransomware attacks) and use cloud services to restore data to ensure zero downtime. 

  4. A dedicated DDoS response plan is another crucial measure to maintain the smooth functioning of healthcare systems and infrastructure.

  5. Healthcare systems having web applications can implement Web Application Firewalls (WAFs) and configure them with appropriate inbound and outbound network policies.

  6. Leverage security experts like Packetlabs for comprehensive penetration testing to strengthen infrastructure security posture.

It is important to stay informed and up-to-date on cyber threats that could affect the IT infrastructure of healthcare systems. Organizations should always be vigilant, educate their staff, and take preventive measures to ensure they are not vulnerable to attack. By having a robust security posture in place, healthcare organizations can protect themselves from malicious actors from taking advantage of their systems and keep their data secure.

Are you in the healthcare sector and worried about cyber threats? Contact the Packetlabs team today for a free consultation.

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