Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Ransom-ware and Bitcoin in hospital

Cyber crimes are now common all over the world. There are more variations than ever have been. Recently, a case using a ransom-ware to extort Bitcoins from a hospital was reported.


Staffs at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center noticed that medical records stored on the server had become unavailable. The computer was cracked by someone, which installed malware to encrypt the patients data. The hospital was demanded to pay money for recovery of the data. After all, the hospital chose to send Bitcoins equivalent to 17,000 USD to the blackmailer.

The Washington Post: After computer hack, L.A. hospital pays $17,000 in Bitcoin ransom to get back medical records

I never appreciate such an evil act. But, this case has some interesting elements which suggest cleverness of the perpetrator.

First, the target of this crime was a hospital. In general, hospitals are more vulnerable to threatening than banks. Though hospital computers equip some security, it can be easily broken by a cracker. It is obviously because few people want to gain hospital data, different from bank money. On the other hand, they are crucial for hospital staffs.

Second, it is unfortunate for Bitcoin to have been utilized for ransom. Bitcoin can be easily tracked, in spite of common understanding. Nonetheless, it is still difficult to discover the whole flow of Bitcoin transaction. I am afraid the reputation of Bitcoin will be damaged by the influence of this case.

Third, 17,000 USD is not a large amount of money. In a hostage crime, over a million dollar can be dealt. But too much money is hardly controllable for the administrator of an organization. Delayed negotiation would be disadvantageous of the criminal. I think the blackmailer estimated 17,000 USD as the highest amount of money to take with low risk.

Anyway, hospitals will have to prepare for this kind of crimes hereafter. Annoying.

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