Like a terrible foot fungus, and not nearly as pleasant, SamSam ransomware just won’t go away. This customized ransomware strain first entered the scene in 2016 and, today, it’s powering the types of targeted cyber attacks that should give all of us pause—especially those in the healthcare industry.
Just consider this: In the past three weeks, SamSam ransomware variants have encrypted:
- Allscripts’ hosted applications, including its electronic health record and electronic prescription apps
- Hancock Health information systems, for which the hospital paid approximately $55,000 to restore access
- City of Farmington’s (NM) computer systems, from which the city was able to recover and avoid paying a $35,000 ransom
Of course, organizations will often pay a price, even if they’re in a position to recover from a recent backup. The hard and soft costs associated with ransomware downtime range from IT recovery and client remediation costs to employee morale and damage to brand reputation.
In short, it pays to be prepared.
And, as there appears to be an uptick in SamSam ransomware attacks, it’s critical to understand how these attacks are deployed to ensure you’re able to best protect your critical data.
How does SamSam ransomware work?
Your everyday, garden-variety ransomware, as you know, often adopts a spray-and-pray approach. Cyber attackers set their traps—distributing emails and making drive-by-downloads widely available. Then, they wait for an unsuspecting victim to inadvertently execute their payload.
SamSam ransomware is different.
With SamSam, cyber attackers scan the web for unpatched server-side software and quietly let themselves in the backdoor. With access to the victim’s environment, attackers collect data and credentials before deploying a customized strain of SamSam ransomware. Then, they use the infected server to spread the encrypting ransomware to Windows machines on the network, as well as to network-based backups.
These attacks are part of a growing trend toward targeted ransomware attacks. While no organization is safe from ransomware, attackers today are leveraging more targeted approaches to exploit vulnerable organizations with deep pockets and a lot to lose—like healthcare systems, for instance.
How can you protect against SamSam?
When it comes to SamSam ransomware, it’s absolutely critical that you ensure your server-side software is current on its patches.
What’s more, we recommend you implement the following best practices:
- Employ a centralized patch management system to more easily detect the endpoint device, software, and firmware vulnerabilities that may be present in your environment—enabling you to more immediately patch them
- Regularly backup your data—and verify that your backups have been completed successfully
- Maintain redundant copies of your backup—ideally at least three copies, with one of those copies offline
- Adopt the principle of least privilege—never giving employees or vendors access to files, applications, or servers unless it’s absolutely necessary for them to execute their jobs (Note: Be particularly mindful of the access you grant to your backup server)
Unfortunately, organizations too often believe they’ve locked up their environments like Fort Knox when, in reality, missed security patches have laid out the welcome mat—and invited cyber attackers to help themselves to their gold.
With these best practices in place, you’ll not only be more likely to prevent a ransomware attack—but you’ll be better placed to contain the damage and recover quickly, too.
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