Ransomware attacks paralyzed at least two German hospitals

Pierluigi Paganini February 27, 2016

New ransomware infections hit Germany hospitals, at least two structures were infected by the dreaded malware.

New ransomware infections hit hospitals in Germany, at least two of them were infected by the dreaded malware.

According to local reports, the systems at two German hospitals were infected by a ransomware, in a similar way occurred recently at the US Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center.

According to the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, the German hospitals infected by the ransomware are the Lukas Hospital in the city of Neuss and the Klinikum Arnsberg hospital in North Rhine-Westphalia.

German hospitals infected by malware Lukas Hospital in the city of Neuss

“Several hospitals in Germany have come under attack by ransomware, a type of virus that locks files and demands cash to free data it maliciously encrypted. It will take weeks until all systems are up and running again.” reported the broadcaster.

A few weeks ago, the staff at the Lukas Hospital noticed a progressive deterioration of system performance, while error messages were popping up.

“We then pulled the plug on everything,” spokesperson Dr. Andreas Kremer told DW. “Computers, servers, even the email server, and we went offline.” 

The ransomware paralyzed the hospital’s architecture, the incident occurred on February 10, 2016. The internal IT staff will take weeks until everything’s back to normal.

“Our IT department quickly realized that we caught malware that encrypts data. So if the X-ray system wants to access system data, it failed to find it because it’s been encrypted, so it displays an error message,” Kremer said.

The staff at the hospital used phone and fax to communicate with patients, the staff explained that a number of high-risk surgeries have been postponed because of the cyber attack.

The hospital reported the incident to the authorities and to the State Criminal Investigation Office (LKA) which are currently investigating on the case.

“We haven’t received a concrete demand for money, but we’ve seen these pop up windows that appear if you don’t stop the ransomware on a computer,” he told DW. The message in broken English points to an anonymous email address to get in touch with. “Following the Criminal Police Office’s advice, we didn’t do that,” Kremer said.

Fortunately, the IT staff at the hospital makes regular backups of the data.

“We have regular backups, so that isn’t a problem. If the virus encrypted data we have backed up, we just restore the backup files,” Kremer said.

The incident at Klinikum Arnsberg occurred a couple of days later, also in this case the systems were infected by a ransomware that was spread through phishing emails.

In this case, only one of 200 servers was infected by the malware, the IT staff recovered the situation by restoring a working backup.

“According to present knowledge, it was an attachment in an email that allowed the virus to enter the system,” Klinikum Arnsberg spokesperson Richard Bornkeßel told DW. “Fortunately, it was only one server that was affected. The virus had started to encrypt files, but we could simply restore them from a backup,”

Both German hospitals haven’t paid the ransom.

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – ransomware, German Hospitals)

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