Attackers Steal 600K Records From Health Care Firms: Report

New research from security specialist InfoArmor shows how hackers have been able to get access to patient records in the United States.

Hackers stole health care records

A group of attackers infiltrated American health care institutions and stole at least 600,000 patient records and attempted to sell more than 3 terabytes of associated data, according to a report set to be released later this week from security firm InfoArmor.

Andrew Komarov, chief intelligence officer at InfoArmor, told eWEEK that he informed the National Healthcare and Public Health Information Sharing and Analysis Center (NH-ISAC) about the attacks in May. InfoArmor was able to discover the attack through what Komarov referred to as, "deep e-crime monitoring" as well as profiling the threat actor involved in the attacks.

While hospitals have been a primary target for attackers in 2016, Komarov noted that the hacker he investigated was able to compromise different types of health care institutions, including private clinics and vendors of various medical equipment and suppliers like orthopedics. By being inside the compromised systems, the hacker is able to take personally identifiable information (PII) and medical data, including X-ray images, he added.

The attacker was able to gain access to the medical information by way of weak user credentials and hacked Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) connections on some servers that had static external IP addresses.

"At the same time, after the intrusion, the bad actor used one LPE [local privilege escalation] exploit in order to be able to access some system files for further patching and backdooring," Komarov said.

In June, security firm TrapX released a report on an attack it dubbed "MEDJACK 2" in which attackers were targeting medical devices.

Medical devices were also involved in the attacks Komarov researched. Attackers were able to gain access to devices and then "backdoor" them. The final stage of the attack is data exfiltration from network segments that have connections with the compromised medical devices and other networks where health care institutions store the received patient data and other PII.

In some of the health care facilities that were exploited, patient data was stored in Microsoft Access desktop databases, without any special user access segregation in place.

"It shows a very low level of security regarding health care," Komorav said.

Overall, Komarov noted that there is low security awareness, and many people in health care don’t expect cyber-attacks.

"They think that the medical device is just a device for their specific function and sometimes they don’t [have] knowledge of misconfigured devices in their networks," Komarav said. "In many cases, they also have external integrators and parties that provide them IT support services. That’s why remote connection channels are very weak in many cases, as they are not properly secure."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.