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How Pirated Software Are Used to Target Veterinary Practices

By March 18, 2024No Comments

Last week, German researchers, G DATA, found Github repositories offering cracked software containing an information stealer called RisePro. The cracked software was part of a campaign codenamed gitgub, which included 17 repositories from 11 accounts.

Upon downloading the cracked software, users were prompted to provide a password, as mentioned in the README.md file. The software then unpacked the payload into the user’s computer and injected RisePro (version 1.6) into either AppLaunch.exe or RegAsm.exe. Cybercriminals then used RisePro functionalities, such as the file transfer protocol (FTP), to transfer stolen information securely. RisePro also had SMTP, enabling email sending, and integrated with Telegram, allowing cybercriminals to communicate in real-time with infected systems. Therefore, a single installation of the cracked software by a veterinary practice would have meant total compromise of their systems.

Unfortunately, few owners, staff, or clients of veterinary practices understand that a single installation of cracked or pirated software can compromise their system. In fact, in most cases, they try to reduce operation costs by downloading “free” cracked or pirated versions of the paid software versions they need. The result is cybercriminals being able to install ransomware, password stealers, and other types of malicious software that cost them more in the long run than they could have paid for the genuine version. This article will examine how cybercriminals use these cracked and pirated software.

The Lure of Free Software: A Trap for the Unwary

The allure of free software is often irresistible for veterinary practices operating on tight budgets. The promise of full functionality without the associated costs is a strong incentive to bypass official channels and seek out cracked versions of necessary programs. However, this is precisely the vulnerability that cybercriminals exploit. By packaging malware within seemingly harmless software, they can easily gain access to a practice’s network.

Once the cracked software is installed, the embedded malware activates, often without any visible signs to the user. It begins to work silently in the background, establishing connections to remote servers controlled by the attackers. These connections can be used to send sensitive data back to the cybercriminals or to receive further instructions and additional malicious payloads.

Consequences of Infiltration From “Free” Software

The infiltration of veterinary practice systems through the use of “free” cracked or pirated software can have dire consequences. These ramifications extend beyond immediate financial loss, creating a ripple effect that can undermine the very foundation of a practice’s operations and reputation. Other consequences include:

  1. Breach of Client Confidentiality and Trust: Cybercriminals target the client database to extract sensitive information such as names, addresses, contact details, and financial information. The breach can lead to identity theft, where personal details are used to create fake identities or commit fraud; financial fraud, with stolen credit card information or bank details leading to unauthorized transactions and financial losses for clients; and a loss of trust, as clients entrust veterinary practices with their personal information, and a breach can irreparably damage this trust, leading to loss of business.

  2. Financial Record Tampering: The manipulation of financial records by cybercriminals can have severe implications, including ransom demands, where cybercriminals encrypt financial data and demand a ransom for the decryption key, and financial discrepancies, where altered records can lead to incorrect financial reporting, affecting the practice’s credibility with financial institutions and tax authorities.

  3. Intellectual Property Theft: Veterinary practices often possess proprietary information that is critical to their operations and competitive advantage. This includes unpublished research data, which, if stolen, can result in the loss of academic credit and potential revenue; unique treatment methods that, if copied, strip the practice of its unique services; and medication formulas, where proprietary blends or dosages if replicated, can lead to significant financial and reputational harm.

  4. Operational Disruption: A compromised system can lead to a myriad of operational challenges. System downtime can render essential software unusable, disrupting daily operations; costly recovery efforts may be required to restore systems and data, which can be both expensive and time-consuming; and legal repercussions may arise from clients or regulatory bodies in response to data breaches.

  5. Long-Term Reputational Damage: The most devastating consequence of a security breach can be the long-term impact on a practice’s reputation. Public perception can be severely damaged by news of a security breach, leading to the loss of future clients; and the practice’s professional standing within the veterinary community can be tarnished, affecting partnerships and professional opportunities.

Mitigation Strategies: Protecting Veterinary Practices

To effectively shield veterinary practices from cyber threats arising from cracked and pirated software, veterinary practices must adopt a multi-layered cybersecurity approach. This includes:

  1. Education and Awareness: It is vital to cultivate a culture of cybersecurity within the practice. Staff should be trained to recognize the dangers of cracked software and the importance of using legitimate, licensed programs. Regular workshops and training sessions can help keep cybersecurity at the forefront of employees’ minds, ensuring that they remain vigilant against potential threats.

2. Robust Security Measures: Implementing strong security measures is a cornerstone of protecting veterinary practices. Firewalls, antivirus solutions, and intrusion detection systems act as the first line of defense against unauthorized access. These tools should be configured properly and monitored continuously to ensure they are functioning effectively and adapting to new threats.

3. Regular Software Updates: Keeping software up-to-date is a critical step in maintaining system security. Regular updates often include patches for security vulnerabilities that, if left unaddressed, could be exploited by cybercriminals. Practices should establish a routine schedule for checking and applying software updates to ensure all systems are protected against known vulnerabilities.

4. Data Encryption: Protecting sensitive data is paramount, and encryption is a key tool in this endeavor. By encrypting data both at rest and in transit, veterinary practices can ensure that even if data is intercepted, it remains unreadable to unauthorized parties. Encryption should be applied to all sensitive information, including client records and financial data.

5. Backup and Recovery Plans: No cybersecurity strategy is complete without a plan for data backup and recovery. Practices should establish comprehensive backup strategies to ensure data can be recovered in the event of a cyberattack. Regular backups should be stored securely, with periodic testing of recovery procedures to confirm data can be effectively restored.

By following these steps, you will protect your veterinary practice from the dangers of using cracked or pirated software. You will also be taking a multifaceted approach that combines education, robust security measures, software updates, data encryption, and comprehensive backup strategies that ensure your practice is safe at all times.

By prioritizing cybersecurity and recognizing the severe risks posed by “free” cracked software, your veterinary practice will also safeguard its operations, client trust, and professional reputation. Your proactive measures and culture of cybersecurity awareness will also be essential in mitigating risks and ensuring your practice’s long-term success and integrity.

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Don’t let outdated technology hold you back. Reach out to Lucca Veterinary Data Security now and unlock the full potential of your veterinary practice.

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