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Why veterinary practices should be concerned about global political turmoil

By March 7, 2022June 9th, 2022No Comments

The recent high-profile ransomware attacks have laid bare how cyberattacks and politics are intertwined. This is why veterinary practices need to pay close attention to recent global political turmoil that is likely to cause increased cyber attacks aimed at them.

Since 2021, a wave of ransomware attacks from foreign entities mostly based in Russia aimed at what the U.S government deemed as “critical infrastructure” forced its government to reclassify such attacks as a national security threat. There were also concerted efforts to address the issue using diplomatic channels by the Biden administration, which ultimately failed to bear any fruits, as attacks still continued to wreak havoc across the country.

Today, veterinary practices need to pay attention to the current Russia-Ukraine conflict. This is because the conflict is likely to trigger cyberattacks that are likely to affect your practice or the third-party IT infrastructure you rely on.

Impact of Russia’s invasion on veterinary practices cyberspace

A new analysis done by researchers from Chainalysis found that 74 percent of all ransomware payments made in 2021 went to Russia-linked hackers. This accounted for more than $400 million worth of cryptocurrency payments that went to cyber criminals believed to be highly likely affiliated with Russia.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has already recognized this threat and increased monitoring of ransomware targeting business. According to Jen Easterly, the head of CISA, there is actual concern about an uptick in ransomware attacks.

To get a glimpse of what to expect as the invasion drags on, we can look at the ransomware attack that targeted the National Veterinary Associates (NVA) in 2019 by a Russian-based ransomware group called Ryuk. The cyberattack affected more than 400 veterinary practices that were operated by NVA. The attack, which lasted for weeks, disrupted the California-based company and crippled its ability to offer veterinary services during that period.

One of the main reasons why CISA and most cybersecurity experts expect an uptick in ransomware attacks is due to the crippling sanctions that are expected to negatively impact Russia’s economy. This is likely to cause pressure to organized cybercriminals in Russia, who may fall back to traditional ransomware attacks that involve indiscriminate cyberattacks. In these types of attacks, cybercriminals are more concerned about the volume of victims than how big their victims are. This means that veterinary practices, regardless of whether they are small, medium, or big, will be targeted both for political and financial reasons.

Small and Medium-sized veterinary practices at greater risk

A report released last year by the Homeland Security Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, showed that more than 50 percent of ransomware victims were small business owners. Although these statistics did not specifically address veterinary practices, it is highly likely that small and medium-sized businesses are also as likely to be targeted like any other business. This is because cybercriminals are looking for easy targets they can compromise and extort ransom.

One of the reasons why small and medium-sized veterinary practices are at greater risks of being targeted by Russia-based ransomware groups in the coming months is due to laxity in cybersecurity measures for most of these institutions. Cybercriminals also do their research, and in most cases, they know who to target and whether they have a defense against cyberattacks. Unfortunately, for most small and medium-sized enterprises, regardless of industry, cybersecurity is mostly not emphasized. This leaves them prone to becoming easy targets for any type of cyber attack.

How can Veterinary practices prepare?

The good news is, even with the looming possibility of being attacked by cybercriminals in the coming months, most cyberattacks are preventable. Below are some of the measures you should take to avoid becoming a victim.

  1. Backup your files: In case of an attack, the surest way to avoid negotiating with cybercriminals is using your backed-up data to restore your services. Unfortunately, not many veterinary practices have a backup of their systems. This can result in disruption of services in case they are attacked.

  2. Antivirus/Antimalware: Ensure you have the latest versions of antivirus and antimalware. This will help in the detection and isolation of ransomware aimed at your veterinary practice.

  3. Update and patch software: Ensuring all your software is updated can help in preventing cyberattacks that rely on software vulnerabilities. You should also ensure that your software is also patched with the latest security updates to prevent cyberattacks.

  4. Multi-factor authentication: A study done by Microsoft estimated that 99 percent of all cyberattacks would have been prevented if a multi-factor authentication was available. Veterinary practices should implement multi-factor authentication if they want to reduce the chances of getting attacked in the coming months.

  5. Train your staff: Having a knowledgeable staff can be an asset for veterinary practices looking to prevent cyberattacks. This is because some of the most common methods of initiating cyberattacks, such as phishing and social engineering, can be prevented by ensuring the staff is knowledgeable about cybersecurity.

  6. Strong passwords and user access control: Ensure that all your staff have a strong password in their accounts. It is also important for veterinary practices to implement some form of user access control that prevents junior employees from accessing the entire network. This can prevent the lateral movement of cybercriminals in case these employees are compromised.

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