Ransomware Attack: Why Do Organizations Need To Pay A Ransom?

How ransomware causing considerable emotional and financial losses to its victims.

New Jersey Health Network tried protecting its information assets but failed to do so and had to pay a hefty ransom to the cybercriminals. Let’s see how it happened and the compelling scenario that made the health network lose its funds in the ransomware attack. By following the incident, we can learn an essential lesson and make it a point to implement the same in this digital transformation age.

To be protected from such malicious phishing attacks and implement anti-phishing solutions, the Federal government expects the organizations to identify PII (Personally Identifiable Information) and PHI (Protected Health Information) and handle them securely. Unauthorized exposure of these confidential and sensitive data by an individual could result in severe consequences for the individual as well as the governing body safeguarding the information.

Any loss of critical information can hamper its integrity and confidentiality and make the data get into the wrong hands. Thus, first, it is imperative to know about what PII and PHI are, their importance, and how neglecting these can result in disastrous outcomes. We will also have a glance at the countermeasures to prevent it, thus implementing anti-phishing steps whenever needed.

phishing prevention

What Are PII And PHI?

To have a fair idea, let’s look into both Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and Protected Health Information (PHI):

Personally Identifiable Information (PII)

Personally Identifiable Information is any data used to identify, locate, or contact any specific individual, either by itself or using other easily accessible sources.

PII can include individual data related to medical, financial, educational, or employment history. It could also consist of a name, email address, biometric data, telephone number, fingerprints, or social security number. Federal agencies safeguard any sensitive information, including the PII of an individual, to prevent a hacking attempt.

Protected Health Information (PHI)

Protected Health Information is any information related to the health status, health care provision, or health care payment, including any medical payment history or records created by an individual’s health care provider about their present, past, or future health.

Some of the vital laws about PII and PHI include HIPAA, the Privacy Act, GLBA, FERPA, COPPA, and FCRA.


malware and ransomware protection


The New Jersey Health Network Ransomware Attack Incident

Reportedly, one of the most prominent incidents happened on the 2nd of this month, i.e., December, 2019, which led the hackers to take undue advantage demanding a hefty ransom amount from the Hackensack Meridian Health, the largest hospital of New Jersey. It resulted in the disruption of its services and rescheduling of around 100 non-emergency appointments and surgeries. The organization that operates 17 acute clinics and hospitals has informed that fortunately, no patients were harmed due to the attack. However, they haven’t disclosed how much amount they paid as ransom to resume the medical systems which were intentionally locked by the adversaries.

The areas of the attack were digital information systems like scheduling and billing, labs, and radiology.


What Countermeasures Should Have Been Taken To Prevent The Attack

Ransomware attacks start with an email containing a malicious link, or a document which ones accessed facilitates the criminals to peek into sensitive network areas, encrypting user data or disabling services. The hackers assure to unlock those systems only under the condition of an exchange of payment, generally in cryptocurrency, which is called the ransom amount.

Thus, one should never click on a skeptical link or open a suspicious attachment received from an unknown sender. Along with this, there are three control measures to follow

Streamlined Operating System

Old, outdated operating systems are highly vulnerable to cyberattacks. For sufficient levels of security, it’s an excellent safeguard to update the operating system in time to be able to remain protected from malicious attacks.

Data Backup

Have a good system data backup to avoid losing your valuable digital information resources in case the attackers get access to your files and ask for a ransom. A data backup will ensure that even if the malware gets into the system and locks your files, you can quickly restore them.

Update Security Patches Regularly

Patches ensure that your system has the least security flaws. They must be applied regularly for finding issues and fixing them in time.

Known ransomware, WannaCry has used these security flaws in the past to spread malware throughout the network once it entered a single device.


Should The Organization Pay Ransom? What Are The Alternatives?

Losing millions in a cyber warfare attack can cause significant losses to the organization’s funds. Although the FBI never supports paying the ransomware fee, serious discussions are ongoing among organizations as to whether to pay a ransom or not to such frauds that disturb the organization’s smooth functioning. Let’s have a look at why you should not pay them to safeguard the organization’s prestige

There Are Free Alternatives

The National High Tech Crime Unit of the Netherlands’ Police takes up the ‘No More Ransom’ project to help victims of ransomware attack retrieve their encrypted data without paying the criminals.

It’s Going To Be An Endless Process

Once you pay them the demanded ransom, criminals may presume that you will continue to pay them and will keep on targeting your enterprise.

No Certainty Of Getting The Data Back

Cyberattackers do not think the way you think; they may take the money from you and, after posing a threat to your data, may never agree to give it back.

Enhancing Ransomware Network

FBI says paying ransom encourages cybercriminals to target additional organizations and may also give rise to other illicit activities.


Final Words

The New Jersey Health Network ransomware attack is an excellent example from which you can learn how worst the outcomes can be and how they can lead to significant financial losses and identity theft. One must be well aware of the repercussions and stay prepared by implementing the necessary safeguards in advance. Prevention is always better than cure.