FBI: Irish HSE hackers targeted 16 US healthcare orgs

Visual representation of ransomware by showing encrypted files on a display
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The Conti ransomware gang attempted to breach over a dozen US healthcare and first responder organisations, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).

The agency sent out a Traffic Light Protocol (TLP) alert on Thursday to help security teams defend their organisation's networks against future Conti attacks.

It suggested that 16 US services were targeted, including law enforcement agencies, 911 dispatch services and municipalities, all within the last 12 months.

"These healthcare and first responder networks are among the more than 400 organisations worldwide victimised by Conti, over 290 of which are located in the US," the FBI Cyber Division said.

Conti is a type of ransomware as a service (RaaS) operation that is thought to be deployed by a Russian group known as Wizard Spider. It shares some of the same code as the notorious Ryuk strain and has recently been linked to attacks on Ireland's Health Service Executive (HSE) and its Department of Health (DoH).

The DoH was able to prevent the Conti attack from encrypting its network but the HSE was not so lucky and was forced to shut down all its IT systems to prevent it from spreading further.

The US government has previously warned of ransomware attacks on its healthcare industry after Ryuk was used to takedown systems for Universal Health Services in October 2020.

The consequences of successful ransomware deployment on hospitals were fully realised last year when a man died after his ambulance had to be rerouted due to a Berlin hospital having its systems compromised.

Germany is fearing more attacks too, with its cyber security agency sending out an alert over the weekend that warned of an increased risk of hackers targeting hospitals. The agency's chief, Arne Schoenbohm, told Zeit Online that remote working has led to "a greater danger at hospitals".

Bobby Hellard

Bobby Hellard is ITPro's Reviews Editor and has worked on CloudPro and ChannelPro since 2018. In his time at ITPro, Bobby has covered stories for all the major technology companies, such as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, and regularly attends industry-leading events such as AWS Re:Invent and Google Cloud Next.

Bobby mainly covers hardware reviews, but you will also recognize him as the face of many of our video reviews of laptops and smartphones.