The threat posed by the WannaCry ransomware is not over for the nation’s hospitals, and two large multi-state hospital delivery systems "are continuing to face significant challenges to operations" because of the WannaCry malware, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
An update on the malware attack from HHS did not identify the hospital systems or their geographical region of the country, or specifically what the effects of the attack were on their operations.
The revelation comes as a surprise, because most published reports have suggested that U.S. hospitals were not affected by WannaCry, which crippled a number of healthcare facilities in the United Kingdom.
In fact, U.S. hospitals could face challenges from lingering affects of the initial ransomware attack, which occurred in mid-May. HHS, through its Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, emphasizes that a new WannaCry attack has not been detected, but risks persist from the initial attack. For instance, the virus can persist on a machine that has been patched, the agency contends.
“The virus will not spread to a patched machine, but the attempt to scan (for the virus) can disrupt Windows operating systems when it executes,” according to the agency. Even patched systems still could be infected if the WannaCry malware is introduced to the system in a different manner.
“Furthermore, a newly patched system could have been previously infected and, if so, would still scan for other vulnerable systems and/or encrypt files,” HHS advises. “Patching a system is similar to how, in physical medicine, a quarantine will prevent an infection from spreading, however, it will not cure the patient who has been quarantined.”
Tips from the agency to mitigate the risk of WannaCry infection include:
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