Healthcare’s Life-or-Death Battle: Ransomware & Loadshedding Incident Response


Ransomware attacks are wreaking havoc on healthcare, causing major disruptions and posing a significant threat on the systemic functioning of hospitals in service delivery and surgeries.

Veronica Schmitt, a cybersecurity expert, Co-founder of the DFIRLABS Digital Forensics and incident Response practice, Assistant Professor at Noroff University in Norway, Security researcher at Medtronic in the US & professional member of the Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa (IIPTSA), warns that healthcare services face a range of other dangers too.

Schmitt emphasizes that cyber-attacks on hospitals worldwide have experienced a significant increase of 51%. She says: “This shows that healthcare as a sector remains a rich target for cyber-criminal groups. Considering the increase in these attacks, 36% of the hospitals that suffered attacks noted that there was an impact on surgeries and patient care.”

Hospitals worldwide are facing a rising tide of ransomware attacks, making the healthcare sector a prime target for cyber criminals. But that’s not the only threat they face, South Africa in particular, grapples with the risk of power interruptions and grid collapse, which could disrupt patient care and safety.

Schmitt highlights the importance of incident response and disaster recovery in the face of these challenges. While digital technology has revolutionized healthcare, there’s a danger of dependency when systems fail more reason for the need for preparedness among doctors and nurses, urging them to familiarize themselves with response plans and practice manual techniques if necessary.

She cites real-world examples where hospitals had to postpone surgeries and divert patients due to cyber-attacks for example in Germany where a ransomware attack took place the hospital chose to divert patients to other healthcare facilities.

Being less reliant on technology and having backup plans in place are crucial. Collaboration between cybersecurity, risk, and operational teams is vital to prioritize care levels and ensure patient safety during disruptions. With patient well-being at stake, being over-prepared is always better than being caught off guard.


Staff writer

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