UnitedHealth’s Cyberattack Should Serve as a ‘Wake-up Call’ for HealthCare Sector

The US Health and Human Services Department (HHS) announced Tuesday that it would assist doctors and hospitals in locating alternate claims processing platforms to help restart the flow of business following a cyberattack on a UnitedHealth Group (UNH) subsidiary that crippled operations of a large swath of America’s health systems for the past two weeks. 

On February 21, a cyberattack paralysed Change Healthcare, which hospitals, doctors’ offices, and pharmacies use to handle payments and prior authorizations for patient visits and medicines.

United gave a lengthy status update Tuesday afternoon, stating that the attack was carried out by BlackCat, a well-known Russian-backed ransomware outfit. 

The FBI was aware of BlackCat, also known as ALPHV, and was successful in breaching the group at the end of last year, but was unable to put it down. BlackCat has previously targeted a number of healthcare companies. It claimed to have collected up to 6 gigabytes of data during the last attack, and that it received $22 million in bitcoin, a transaction visible on the blockchain, but it is still being determined where it came from. 

Based on the most recent statistics, 90% of claims are still being processed for health providers, and pharmacies should be fully operational by Thursday, UHG explained in a statement Tuesday.

Additionally, the company noted, “We’ve made progress in providing workarounds and temporary solutions to bring systems back online in pharmacy, claims and payments.” 

While smaller systems that rely heavily on Change Healthcare are suffering, larger systems with many vendors or the financial capacity to quickly switch to another provider are less affected. 

“This may be the first of its kind, where an outage at the interoperability layer weakens the capacity of the system to function,” stated Aneesh Chopra, former US chief technology officer and currently co-founder and president of CareJourney, a healthcare analytics company. “This is a wake-up call on the need for redundancy in systems so we have backup options when a particular vendor goes down.” 

Third-party risks 

Tech platforms have had difficulty allowing their software to interact with each other and provide seamless connectivity for health systems due to regulations safeguarding patient data.

However, newer products have made interoperability easier to achieve, which also makes them more susceptible to attacks. 

United’s attack makes sense for that reason because it choked off a key mechanism in the inner workings of the system. The change enables several healthcare system companies to handle payments and claims. For example, CVS (CVS) reports that 25% of its claims are processed using Change.

This is in stark contrast to earlier attacks that target specific organisations, such as insurance and hospitals, and affect only one aspect of the system. 

United is also a tempting target because its Optum brand comprises Optum Financial, a different division of UHG that operates a number of payment systems.

Source: Original Post

“An interesting youtube video that may be related to the article above”