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Why Ransomware is Growing?

Blog - A-1

Introduction - 2024 Ransomware Growth

The year 2024 has witnessed a significant surge in ransomware attacks, reflecting a concerning trend that has been evolving over recent years. The global landscape of ransomware has become more sophisticated, with attackers employing advanced techniques to exploit vulnerabilities across various sectors. One of the most notable targets has been the healthcare industry, where the stakes are incredibly high due to the sensitive nature of the data involved and the critical services provided.

Several factors contribute to the increasing prevalence of ransomware. Firstly, the digital transformation accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an expanded attack surface, with more systems and data moving online. This shift has created more opportunities for cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities. Additionally, the rise of Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) has democratized cybercrime, enabling even low-skilled attackers to launch sophisticated attacks using pre-packaged ransomware kits.

In healthcare, the impact of ransomware can be devastating (read more in our Ransomware in Healthcare Guide). Hospitals and healthcare providers store vast amounts of personal and sensitive data, making them prime targets for attackers seeking lucrative payouts. The consequences of a ransomware attack in this sector can extend beyond financial loss, affecting patient care and safety. For instance, the ransomware attack on Kokubu Seikyo Hospital disrupted emergency and general outpatient services, underscoring the critical need for robust cybersecurity measures in healthcare institutions.

Cybersecurity plays a pivotal role in mitigating the threat of ransomware. Implementing advanced security protocols, regular audits, employee training, and robust incident response plans are essential strategies to protect against these attacks. As ransomware tactics evolve, so must the defensive measures employed by organizations, particularly in vulnerable sectors like healthcare.

1. Overview of the Increased Number of Ransomware Cases in 2024

The Rise in Ransomware Attacks

2024 has seen a marked increase in ransomware attacks, continuing a worrying trend observed over the past few years. The first few months of 2024 alone have reported an alarming spike in the number of ransomware incidents, surpassing the figures from the same period in previous years.

One of the key findings from the State of Ransomware Report for May 2024 illustrates this trend vividly. The graph shows a stark increase in unreported ransomware attacks, with an 865% rise in incidents that have not been disclosed publicly compared to previous years. This highlights a growing trend of organizations opting to handle attacks internally to avoid reputational damage and financial penalties.

The report indicates that May 2024 experienced a notable surge in ransomware activities. This is part of a broader pattern where attacks tend to increase as the year progresses, peaking towards the middle of the year. The report also shows that a significant percentage of these attacks involve the use of PowerShell, a powerful scripting language often exploited by cybercriminals to automate malicious activities and evade detection.

In 2024, the average payout for ransomware attacks was reported to be $381,980, which, although a 32% decrease from Q4 2023, still represents a substantial financial burden on affected organizations. Furthermore, 92% of ransomware attacks in this period involved data exfiltration, underscoring the dual-threat nature of modern ransomware incidents where data is not only encrypted but also stolen to extort victims further.

Major Ransomware Groups and Their Tactics

Several ransomware groups have been particularly active in 2024. Groups like BlackCat, AlphV, and LockBit continue to dominate the ransomware landscape with their advanced and evolving tactics. These groups have adopted sophisticated methods such as double extortion, where they threaten to publish stolen data if the ransom is not paid. This tactic not only puts additional pressure on victims to pay but also increases the potential impact of the attack by compromising sensitive information.

For example, the BlackCat ransomware group, which emerged as a significant threat in late 2023, has continued its activities into 2024. This group is known for its highly customizable ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) model, which allows affiliates to tailor their attacks based on the target’s specific vulnerabilities. This approach has made BlackCat one of the most prolific ransomware groups in recent history.

Case Studies of Major Attacks

One of the most significant ransomware incidents in early 2024 was the attack on Change Healthcare, a major U.S. healthcare payment processor. This attack resulted in a $22 million ransom payment, making it one of the largest ransom payments in recent times. The impact of this attack was far-reaching, affecting numerous healthcare providers and highlighting the vulnerability of critical infrastructure to ransomware threats.

Another notable case was the attack on a European automotive manufacturer in February 2024. This attack, attributed to the LockBit ransomware group, disrupted production for several days and led to significant financial losses. The attackers used a combination of phishing emails and exploiting known vulnerabilities in the manufacturer’s network to gain access and deploy the ransomware.

For more detailed statistics about global ransomware attacks you can visit

2. Healthcare: A Major Target of 2024 Ransomware Attacks

The Change Healthcare Ransomware Attack

In early 2024, the ransomware landscape was dramatically highlighted by a significant attack on Change Healthcare, a major U.S. healthcare payment processor. This incident stands out not only because of the $22 million ransom paid but also due to the extensive impact it had on the healthcare sector. The attack crippled Change Healthcare's operations, affecting the ability of numerous healthcare facilities to process payments and manage patient records efficiently. This disruption underscores the vulnerability of healthcare systems and the critical need for robust cybersecurity measures within this sector.

The attackers, identified as the BlackCat ransomware group, utilized sophisticated techniques to infiltrate the systems. They employed phishing attacks and exploited existing vulnerabilities within the network to gain access. Once inside, they encrypted critical data and demanded a ransom to prevent the public release of sensitive information and to restore access to the encrypted files. This dual-threat approach of data encryption combined with the threat of data exposure has become a common tactic among ransomware groups, increasing pressure on victims to comply with ransom demands.

The Aftermath and Impact on the Healthcare Industry

The repercussions of the Change Healthcare attack were felt across the healthcare industry. Hospitals and clinics relying on Change Healthcare's services faced delays in patient care, billing, and administrative functions. Such disruptions can have severe consequences, including delayed treatments, increased patient wait times, and a general decline in the quality of healthcare services provided. The financial burden of the ransom payment, coupled with the costs associated with system recovery and strengthening cybersecurity measures, further strained the affected organizations.

This incident has drawn significant attention to the broader issue of ransomware in healthcare. The healthcare sector, known for handling vast amounts of sensitive personal data, has become an attractive target for cybercriminals. The consequences of a successful ransomware attack in this sector can be particularly dire, given the potential impact on patient care and safety. This has led to increased calls for improved cybersecurity measures and greater investment in protecting healthcare infrastructure.

The Response from the Healthcare Industry

In response to the growing threat of ransomware, healthcare organizations are reevaluating their cybersecurity strategies. There is a heightened focus on proactive measures to prevent such attacks and mitigate their impact. Key areas of improvement include:

  1. Enhancing Cybersecurity Training: Ensuring that all staff members are aware of the latest cybersecurity threats and best practices is crucial. Regular training sessions can help employees recognize and avoid phishing attempts and other common attack vectors.

  2. Implementing Advanced Security Technologies: Utilizing advanced technologies such as intrusion detection systems, endpoint protection, and network segmentation can help detect and prevent unauthorized access. Additionally, deploying multi-factor authentication and encryption can further secure sensitive data.

  3. Developing Comprehensive Incident Response Plans: Having a well-defined incident response plan can significantly improve an organization's ability to respond to and recover from a ransomware attack. This includes regular testing and updating of the plan to ensure its effectiveness.

  4. Collaborating with Cybersecurity Experts: Partnering with cybersecurity firms can provide healthcare organizations with the expertise needed to bolster their defences. These firms can offer services such as vulnerability assessments, threat intelligence, and incident response support.

  5. Strengthening Regulatory Compliance: Adhering to regulatory standards and guidelines, such as those set forth by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), can help ensure that healthcare organizations maintain robust security practices.

The attack on Change Healthcare has served as a wake-up call for the entire healthcare industry. It has highlighted the urgent need for enhanced cybersecurity measures to protect against ransomware and other cyber threats. As healthcare organizations continue to adapt to the evolving threat landscape, they must prioritize cybersecurity to safeguard their operations and the sensitive data they manage.

By taking these proactive steps, the healthcare sector can better defend against ransomware attacks and minimize the potential impact on patient care and organizational stability. The lessons learned from the Change Healthcare incident will undoubtedly shape the future of cybersecurity in healthcare, driving a more resilient and secure industry.

3. Why is Healthcare more Vulnerable to Ransomware?

Unique Vulnerabilities

Healthcare institutions are uniquely vulnerable to ransomware attacks due to several factors. These organizations rely heavily on continuous access to electronic health records (EHRs), imaging systems, and other digital tools for patient care. A ransomware attack can disrupt these critical systems, leading to delays in medical procedures and, in severe cases, posing life-threatening risks to patients.

Healthcare data is particularly valuable on the black market. Patient records contain sensitive information, including personal identification details, medical histories, and insurance information. This makes them a lucrative target for cybercriminals who can sell the stolen data for a high price or use it for identity theft and fraud.

Bureaucratic and Regulatory Challenges

The healthcare sector also faces significant bureaucratic and regulatory challenges. Compliance with regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the United States requires stringent security measures to protect patient information. Implementing and maintaining these measures can be complex and resource-intensive.

Moreover, many healthcare institutions operate with outdated software and hardware due to high costs and regulatory hurdles, making them more susceptible to cyberattacks. Legacy systems create significant vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit.

Financial and Operational Impact

Ransomware attacks have profound financial and operational impacts on healthcare organizations. The ransom payments can be substantial, as evidenced by the $22 million paid by Change Healthcare following a ransomware attack. In addition to the ransom, healthcare providers face costs associated with system downtime, data recovery, and regulatory fines.

Operational disruptions can be severe. The ransomware attack on Kokubu Seikyo Hospital, for example, rendered their image management server non-operational, affecting emergency and general outpatient services. Such disruptions can delay diagnoses and treatments, compromising patient care and safety.

Increased Risk During Crises

The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated vulnerabilities in the healthcare sector. The increased reliance on digital tools for patient management and the surge in remote work created more entry points for cybercriminals. The urgency and strain on healthcare resources during the pandemic made institutions more likely to pay ransoms quickly to restore critical services.

Need for Better Cybersecurity Measures

To address these challenges, healthcare organizations must prioritize robust cybersecurity measures. Regular security audits, employee training on cybersecurity best practices, and the implementation of advanced threat detection and response systems are essential. By enhancing their cybersecurity posture, healthcare organizations can better protect themselves against ransomware attacks and ensure the continuity of patient care.


4. Notes from the CISO

As the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) of Gftd Japan, I have observed the alarming growth of ransomware attacks, particularly in the healthcare sector. This surge can largely be attributed to the advent of Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS), a model that enables even less technically skilled criminals to launch sophisticated attacks. RaaS provides a streamlined and organized approach to ransomware attacks, making it easier for cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities in systems. The result is a significant increase in the frequency and severity of these incidents.

One of the key challenges for organizations, especially healthcare providers, is the complexity of responding to ransomware attacks. When systems are encrypted, it becomes incredibly difficult to restore operations quickly. Many organizations find themselves dealing with these attacks on their own, without the necessary expertise or resources, which prolongs recovery times and leads to substantial financial losses due to inactivity. This creates a situation where paying the ransom seems like the most viable option, as it can be less costly than the extended downtime and potential loss of sensitive data.

This was the case with Change Healthcare, which paid a $22 million ransom following a ransomware attack. For a large organization like Change Healthcare, the cost of the ransom was outweighed by the losses incurred from locked systems and the risk of sensitive data exposure. However, paying ransoms fuels the ransomware economy, encouraging attackers to continue their operations. They see it as an easy and lucrative endeavor, particularly when targeting sectors like healthcare, where the stakes are incredibly high.

Healthcare cybersecurity poses unique challenges. The diverse and often outdated systems used in healthcare environments complicate security efforts. Unlike other sectors such as banking or critical infrastructure, healthcare cannot simply adopt the same security measures without potentially disrupting patient care. Effective cybersecurity in healthcare requires a nuanced understanding of both the medical and technological landscapes.

Some regulators are considering legislation to prohibit ransom payments, but this approach could have severe implications for healthcare organizations and their patients. The inability to pay ransoms could lead to prolonged service disruptions, risking not only data and financial losses but also patient lives if critical medical services are halted.

Healthcare organizations cannot tackle this issue alone. They need a comprehensive strategy to protect against ransomware, which includes implementing robust cybersecurity practices and collaborating with security consultants, law enforcement, regulators, and government agencies. Just as attackers are organized and utilize RaaS to enhance their capabilities, healthcare providers must also leverage a network of support and advanced security solutions to defend against and respond to these threats effectively.

At Gftd Japan, we are committed to assisting healthcare organizations in enhancing their cybersecurity posture. Our expertise in security consulting and audits can help institutions protect their critical systems and ensure the safety and privacy of patient data. By working together, we can create a resilient healthcare system capable of withstanding the growing threat of ransomware.



The year 2024 has seen a significant rise in ransomware attacks, especially targeting the healthcare sector. The emergence of Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) has made these attacks more accessible to cybercriminals, exacerbating the threat. Healthcare providers, with their reliance on digital systems and sensitive data, are prime targets, as evidenced by the attack on Change Healthcare, which led to a $22 million ransom payment.

Ransomware poses unique challenges for healthcare, where outdated systems and stringent regulatory requirements complicate security efforts. The potential prohibition of ransom payments could further complicate recovery efforts, risking extended downtime and patient safety.

Effective defence against ransomware requires a comprehensive approach, including robust cybersecurity practices, regular audits, employee training, and collaboration with cybersecurity experts and regulatory bodies. At Gftd Japan, we are committed to helping healthcare organizations strengthen their cybersecurity posture, protect patient data, and ensure service continuity. Contact us today to learn how we can support your organization's cybersecurity needs.