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UK Hospital Systems Running Windows XP Are Taken Offline

The largest hospital group in the UK was the victim of an online attack, forcing them to take some of its systems offline.

The Barts Health NHS Trust is a system of three district general hospitals staffing over 15,000 employees serving 2.5 million patients in east London.

The Health Service Journal reports that the attack affected thousands of files hosted on the hospital group’s Windows XP operating system, and the file sharing system between departments has been turned off, according to the Telegraph.

Last year, ransomware attacks against Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals forced them to shut down systems and cancel operations for four days.

They were infected with a variant known as Globe2, which commonly infects users via phishing emails containing malicious links, according to ZDNet.

Protecting Healthcare Against Security Breaches

How can you protect your organization against ransomware and other online attacks against patient data?

Update your operating systems. The hospital group was running Windows XP, released in 2001 - over 15 years ago - and it has over 700 reported vulnerabilities logged in the CVE Details database.

Extended support for the OS ended in April 2014, which means it no longer receives security updates. That means it’s an easy target for attackers that exploit known software vulnerabilities in older systems to get access to hospital files.

According to Duo’s 2016 Trusted Access Report, the healthcare industry has twice as many Windows endpoints running XP than Duo’s average customers. And another 78% of the Windows endpoints in healthcare are running on the outdated Windows 7 OS, released in 2009.

Get visibility into your endpoints. Check the security health of every device that logs into your systems to ensure only Trusted Devices can access your applications and patient data.

Create custom device access policies to block risky devices based on what security features they’ve enabled, or what version of software they’re running to reduce the risk of ransomware infection.

Step up your authentication game. Add not only two-factor authentication (also known as multi-factor authentication) to your system logins, but invest in a solution with advanced user access policies to ensure only Trusted Users are granted access.

Run a phishing simulation. Since phishing emails are often the harbinger of ransomware, malware and other credential-stealing attacks, measure your organization’s level of risk and likelihood of getting phished by launching a simulated internal phishing campaign. Then use the data to identify risks and educate your employees. Learn more about Duo Insight, a free phishing simulator tool, and read our guide, The Trouble With Phishing to learn about risks.

Check out Duo’s Guide to Securing Patient Data for more on relevant health IT security legislation, information security guidelines for remote access risks, and more on how you can protect against modern attacks and meet regulatory compliance with two-factor authentication.

Thu Pham

Information Security Journalist

@Thu_Duo

Thu Pham covers current events in the tech industry with a focus on information security. Prior to joining Duo, Thu covered security and compliance for the infrastructure as a service (IaaS) industry at Online Tech. Based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, she earned her BS in Journalism from Central Michigan University.