Ransomware “Officially” Kills a Person

There have undoubtedly been deaths in the past caused by computer attacks. I once made a list of possible cases. What has just changed is someone is willing to go on the record saying it happened.

We know, for example, that hospital outages and patient deaths have been in warnings posted to American mainstream news since at least 1983:

Time Magazine in 1983 with stern warning that network attacks on computers will kill someone.

By comparison, the latest news coming from Europe is that a delay in care due to ransomware has caused a particular patient’s death and that it should be treated as negligent homicide.

…ransomware attack crippled a nearby hospital in Düsseldorf, Germany, and forced her to obtain services from a more distant facility…

That’s is less news to me and more a chilling reminder of the talk I gave in 2017 in London about preventing ransomware attacks in healthcare.

Slide from my presentation at MongoDB Europe 2017

As someone who parachuted into the front-lines of solving this burning problem at massive scale (personally leading significant security enhancements for the database company most affected by ransomware attacks — infamously insecure MongoDB) I have many thoughts.

Many, many thoughts.

Suffice it to say here, however, when I was building and running hospital infrastructure in the 1990s my mindset about this risk wasn’t much different than it is today.

If anything, it seems to me we’re seeing healthcare industry becoming more honest with the public about its hidden operational risks.

Reading news that an arsonist burned a hospital down — forcing a fatal diversion of patients — should prompt people to ask if failing to install sprinklers is negligence.

And then people should ask if a hospital construction company was building them with sprinklers that were optional or even non-operational, and whether THAT was negligent.

Those are the deeper questions here.

While there are cases of people driving around in circles intentionally to kill the person they’re supposed to be taking to the hospital (e.g. assassination, even more than negligence), they seem a targeted exception risk rather than the pattern.

It is a hospital’s burden of high availability (let alone a region or network of hospitals like the NHS) to plan for intentional low capacity (and their vendors’ responsibility) that should remain the focus.

*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from flyingpenguin authored by Davi Ottenheimer. Read the original post at: