Embedded Windows Medical 'Devices' Infected by WannaCry Ransomware

Health care systems using medical devices running embedded Windows have been infected with the WannaCry ransomware, highlighting that the impact of the malware goes beyond lost data or payoffs to cyber-criminals.

WannyCry Infects Medical Devices

Healthcare systems using medical devices running embedded Windows have been infected with the WannaCry ransomware, highlighting that the impact of the malware goes beyond lost data or payoffs to cyber-criminals.

A handful of different types medical systems have been infected with the WannaCry ransomware, disrupting some medical practices, according to an advisory sent to health care organizations this week.

The advisory—part of an official alert issued by the HITRUST Alliance, a non-profit information sharing and analysis organization—stated that there is “[e]vidence that MedRad (Bayer), Siemens and other unnamed medical devices have been infected”. Medical systems based on embedded Windows are called “devices” in the industry, but are not to be confused with devices that can be implanted in the human body.

The number and types of devices affected by the attack is likely larger, Daniel Nutkis, CEO of the HITRUST Alliance, told eWEEK.

“We are slightly surprised, so we think there is some underreporting going on here, because the data suggests that there are a lot of people that are not patching and a lot who are not updating their endpoint security, so we should be seeing higher numbers,” he said.

Siemens Healthineers said it is ready to work with customers who have medical devices that have been infected by the WannaCry ransomware.

"Siemens Healthineers is aware that some customers have been impacted by the cyber-attack known as 'WannaCry,'" a Siemens spokesperson wrote in an email response to an eWEEK inquiry. "Whether any such vulnerability can be exploited is dependent on the actual configuration and deployment environment of each product. We are working alongside our customers to remedy the consequences of this attack."

The WannaCry malware started spreading a week ago. Recent analyses have linked the attack to the Lazarus Group, a collection of hackers thought to be connected to North Korea and believed responsible for the destructive attack on Sony Pictures and the attempted theft of $850 million from the central bank of Bangladesh. In that incidents, transactions worth $101 million were originally transferred, but officials were able to recover about $38 million.

While WannaCry has hit organizations worldwide, U.S. health care firms have appeared to largely escape the brunt of the damaging attacks. However, a number of health-care companies shut down their email systems and at least one health care provider had more than a dozen systems infected by the attack, according to a non-public alert sent to HITRUST members.Since companies had more than two months to patch the issue exploited by the attacks, the disruption was entirely preventable, HITRUST’s Nutkis said.

“These types of non-zero day attacks can be mitigated with appropriate frameworks and controls,” he said. “That is fundamental to fighting this type of disruption.”

The companies who did not get hit either had reasonable patch processes in place, updated endpoint security, or got lucky through a combination of other factors, he said. Network segmentation—where vulnerable devices and critical systems are placed on their own protected networks—can also help to limit damages.

Unless more companies focus on their processes for improving their information security, they will be susceptible to the next attack, Nutkis said.

“We are going to have the same conversation in about six weeks unless we start doing something different,” he said.

Smaller companies that do not have the in-house expertise to manage their security should have a provider do it for them, he added. The HITRUST Alliance, for example, has partnered with some cyber-security firms to offer a health care-specific solution to adhering to a cyber-security framework, because many of its members cannot handle their own security.

“There still seems to be a certain group of organizations that continue to struggle, and we are trying to figure out the best way to help them,” he said.

A request for comment from Bayer was not returned by the time of publishing.

Robert Lemos

Robert Lemos

Robert Lemos is an award-winning freelance journalist who has covered information security, cybercrime and technology's impact on society for almost two decades. A former research engineer, he's...