In a statement issued Monday morning, Lehigh Valley Health Network said it had been the target of a cyberattack attributed to a ransomware gang known as BlackCat. The Network is made up of 13 hospital campuses, as well as other health facilities, and is based in Pennsylvania.
The ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) group BlackCat, also known as ALPHV and Noberus, is currently one of the most active groups, and has been associated with Russia. In our recent February ransomware review it came in second after Lockbit, based on the number of known attacks.
In December, 2022, the Office of Information Security and Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Center issued an extensive Analyst Note which identified BlackCat as a "relatively new but highly-capable" ransomware threat to health care providers.
BlackCat uses double extortion and sometimes triple extortion to make victims pay the ransom. That means that besides encrypting files, the gang also threaten to publish the stolen data on a so-called “leak site”, and at times, threaten their victims with DDoS attacks.
According to the health network, the attack targeted the network supporting Delta Medix, a physician practice in Lackawanna County. The unauthorized activity was detected on February 6, 2023 and involved a computer system used for patient images for radiation oncology treatment and other sensitive information.
The health network is investigating the full scope of the attack, but says services have not been disrupted, although its websites seem to be offline for the moment. It was unable to say yet whether any specific patient's personal or sensitive information was compromised, but promised to inform any affected individuals if it discovers that was the case.
The Lehigh Valley Health Network said it has refused to pay a ransom, but did not disclose the demanded amount. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) The BlackCat group has demanded ransoms as high as $1.5 million in previous cybersecurity attacks against the healthcare sector.
Dr. Brian Nester, the health network's president and CEO said:
"BlackCat demanded a ransom payment, but LVHN refused to pay this criminal enterprise. We understand that BlackCat has targeted other organizations in the academic and health care sectors. We are continuing to work closely with our cybersecurity experts to evaluate the information involved and will provide notices to individuals as required as soon as possible. Attacks like this are reprehensible and we are dedicating appropriate resources to respond to this incident."
Recent reports indicated that ransomware revenue went significantly down over 2022, likely due to companies’ increasing unwillingness to meet the ransom demands.
How to avoid ransomware
- Block common forms of entry. Create a plan for patching vulnerabilities in internet-facing systems quickly; disable or harden remote access like RDP and VPNs; use endpoint security software that can detect exploits and malware used to deliver ransomware.
- Detect intrusions. Make it harder for intruders to operate inside your organization by segmenting networks and assigning access rights prudently. Use EDR or MDR to detect unusual activity before an attack occurs.
- Stop malicious encryption. Deploy Endpoint Detection and Response software like Malwarebytes EDR that uses multiple different detection techniques to identify ransomware.
- Create offsite, offline backups. Keep backups offsite and offline, beyond the reach of attackers. Test them regularly to make sure you can restore essential business functions swiftly.
- Write an incident response plan. The period after a ransomware attack can be chaotic. Make a plan that outlines how you'll isolate an outbreak, communicate with stakeholders, and restore your systems.
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