FBI warns of cyberthreat to medical, dental facilities

2017 03 30 10 29 47 941 Computer Data 400

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is warning medical and dental facilities of potential threats from hackers who are actively targeting patient data.

The FBI said that "criminal actors" are targeting file transfer protocol (FTP) servers at medical and dental sites running in "anonymous" mode in an attempt to access protected health information (PHI) and personally identifiable information (PII) to "intimidate, harass, and blackmail" business owners.

Research published in 2015 indicates that more than 1 million FTP servers were configured to allow anonymous access, a practice that potentially exposes sensitive data, the FBI noted. The anonymous extension of FTP lets a user authenticate to the server with a username such as "anonymous" or "ftp" without submitting a password, or by using a generic password or email address.

While some computer security researchers seek out FTP servers to perform research, hackers are also trying to connect to the servers to access patient data, according to the agency. Cybercriminals could also use an anonymous server to store malware or launch cyberattacks.

The FBI recommended that medical and dental facilities have their IT personnel check their networks for FTP servers running in anonymous mode. If businesses have a legitimate reason for operating in this mode, they should ensure that no patient data are stored on the computers.

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