On January 8, the Health South East RHF, that is the healthcare organization that manages hospitals in Norway’s southeast region (countries of Østfold, Akershus, Oslo, Hedmark, Oppland, Buskerud, Vestfold, Telemark, Aust-Agder and Vest-Agder), disclosed a security breach that may have exposed sensitive data belonging to more than half of the population.
The incident was announced by the national healthcare security centre HelseCERT that detected an abnormal activity against computer systems in the region. HelseCERT notified the incident to local authorities as well as NorCERT.
“We are in a phase where we try to get an overview. It’s far too early to say how big the attack is. We are working to acquire knowledge of all aspects,” Kjetil Nilsen, director of NorCERT, the National Security Authority (NSM) told Norwegian media outlet VG.
“Everything indicates that it is an advanced player who has the tools and ability to perform such an attack. It can be advanced criminals. There is a wide range of possibilities,”
According to the HelseCert, the security breach is the result of an attack conducted by ‘advanced’ and ‘professional’ hackers.
Authorities announced important measures to limit the damage caused by the security breach.
“A number of measures have been implemented to remove the threat, and further measures will be implemented in the future,” announced Norway’s Ministry of Health and Care in a statement.
The hospitals in the region currently serve 2.9 million inhabitants, that correspond to 56 percent of the overall population composed of 5.2 million citizens.
Health records are a precious commodity in the cybercrime underground, but are also considered by nation-state actors a mine of data that could be used in further attacks. Experts and government representatives believe that the data breach suffered by the Health South-East RHF could be the result of a cyber espionage campaign conducted by a foreign state interested in gathering data related to people who work in government, military, intelligence personnel, and politicians.
The VG newspaper reported that Health South East hired Hewlett Packard Enterprise in the autumn of 2016 to modernize computer systems in the healthcare company, but the project was suspended because NRK revealed poor control of access to patient data.
The Health South East RHF data breach seems to be not related to the above project, as confirmed by CEO Cathrine Lofthus.
“We have investigated that is important to us. We do not see any connection between this attack and that project, “says Lofthus.
(Security Affairs – Health South East RHF, data breach)