Brittany Toolis reports:
As if battling cancer isn’t hard enough, now patients at UW’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center are being extorted.
Last month, the Cancer Center experienced a data breach, exposing data for an unknown number of patients.
Some of those patients are getting emails threatening to leak their personal information if they don’t pay up.
The cancer center’s notice of December 1 made no mention of any ransomware or any ransom demand.
DataBreaches sent an email inquiry to Fred Hutch asking some specific questions about whether they had received any demands and whether they had ignored the demands or negotiated with attackers. The extortion emails to patients claim that the center “had a chance” to protect the data but “they refused to make a deal.” One of the questions DataBreaches put to Fred Hutch asked whether they had responded to any demands. Most experts advise victims not to pay extortion demands, so if the center responded and refused, it would not be unusual in this day and age.
Somewhat surprising, however, the patients seem to be told that it will only cost them $50 to get their data scrubbed from the dark web.
That amount does not seem typical at all, and as one recipient of an email commented, should anyone believe the claims of a criminal?
Kiro7 also reports that Fred Hutch has been telling patients:
We are sorry you’re receiving these messages. Unfortunately, this is a common tactic threat actors use, and we have notified local and federal law enforcement of these messages. If the message demands a ransom, DO NOT PAY IT. Please report these messages to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov. Then block the sender and delete the message. In addition, you may consider reporting the message as spam through your email.
From DataBreaches’ searches and queries so far, the data have not been leaked anywhere on the dark web or clear net at this point.
Not all people receiving the threatening email are Fred Hutch patients. Some may be UW Medicine patients. King5 News obtained an explanation from UW Medicine:
“Fred Hutch serves as UW Medicine’s cancer program and we advance cancer research together through the Fred Hutch/University of Washington/Seattle Children’s Cancer Consortium. As a result of our work with Fred Hutch, the cybersecurity incident experienced on Fred Hutch systems impacted data for some UW Medicine patients who have not been seen at Fred Hutch. A forensic team is continuing to assess the situation and Fred Hutch will directly contact any individuals whose information was involved. Patient care is not interrupted; Fred Hutch, UW Medical Center, Harborview Medical Center and UW Medicine Primary Care clinics are open and serving patients.”
Fred Hutch has not provided any response to the inquiries sent to it earlier today.