7 Feb 2020
In past articles, we’ve investigated in-depth the threat of the cybercriminal economy: stolen data sold and traded on the so-called “dark web,” along with increasingly malicious forms of software (like Ransomware-as-a-Service) distributed with step-by-step instructions for ill-intentioned hackers. Our increasingly digital economy has, in turn, paralleled a growth spurt in these dark web transactions. And as corporate systems expand and unify into larger digital entities, closing off more and more potential means of access, high-profile account information has become an incredibly valuable commodity in illegitimate cyber markets. Consider the average cybersecurity system: regardless of any foundational security to keep the ground level of a system safe, there is almost always an “administrative key,” or some other high-ranking account with access to bypass the barriers. It makes sense, then, that even as other avenues for hackers are eliminated, these administrative accounts would become very coveted—and extremely vulnerable.
Going OnceAs one of the most consistently vulnerable industries in the business world, healthcare administrator access credentials are the most commonly auctioned off. The administrative credentials are used for both clinician and patient portals, according to Etay Maor, chief security officer at the threat intelligence firm IntSights. Maor goes on to explain that stealing health data is a particularly tantalizing target for cybercriminals because unlike other targets, it can be reused for different kinds of attacks. Hackers might encrypt the data and use it to extort money in a ransomware attack, or sell patient information for identity thieves; and so on. The concept of extracting and selling usernames and passwords from databases is hardly a new one, but this recent trend of selling admin access to healthcare organizations is both unexpected and troubling. Not only could an enterprising hacker use it to bypass security systems, but admin access enables those with it to change data. By extension, if malicious agents appear in the system, the system may not register it as a threat.
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