Digital economy and society minister warns of ransomware

Digital economy and society minister warns of ransomware

Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta
Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta

Digital Economy and Society (DES) Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta on Sunday urged public organisations to prepare for coordinated ransomware attacks, following a recent attempt to extract 63 billion baht in ransom from Saraburi hospital.

The minister said that since 2017, the Computer Emergency Response Team (ThaiCERT) under the DES Ministry has detected an increasing number of ransomware attacks, including WannaCry, GrabCrab Stop, PolyRansom/Virlock and Crysis/Dharma, among others.

From January to November alone, Thailand saw 1,969 cyber attacks, which targeted agencies and organisations in the infrastructure, entertainment, finance and public health sectors, Mr Buddhipongse said, adding the malware was sent from in and outside the country.

The most recent ransomware attack targeted Saraburi Hospital in September, when a hacker managed to block access to patients' medical records and shut down the hospital's telephone lines.

The attacker demanded the hospital pay 63 billion baht in Bitcoin, police said.

In its response, ThaiCERT restored access to patients' records quickly after the attack and prevented the attacker from misusing the hospital's information, Mr Buddhiponse said.

In the wake of the attack, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said he has called on the DES ministry to step up measures to prevent cyber-attacks at hospitals nationwide.

Mr Buddhipongse urged all public organisations to install the necessary software to prevent cyber attacks, saying the DES Ministry can assist with the installation of protective systems upon request.

Malware can enter a computer system through various means, including email attachments. Once downloaded, it can multiply and spread automatically within the targeted network.

Computers with remote desktop services and those which aren't secured with strong passwords are more susceptible to malware attacks, the minister said.

He urged users to update their operating systems and anti-virus software, and avoid opening files attached to emails from unknown senders.

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