Jack Quann
Jack Quann

07.43 20 May 2021


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Certain ransomware technologies search computers for Russian keyboards ahead of a potential hack, according to one cyber expert.

Professor of cyber security at Ulster University, Kevin Curran, told Newstalk Breakfast this is because a lot of the groups involved are based in Russia.

"One thing that a lot of people don't know is, at the moment, a lot of this ransomware: if you have installed a Russian keyboard as your second keyboard - or your first keyboard if you speak Russian - the ransomware software comes in and it checks first of all to see if there's a Russian keyboard installed.

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"And that is because a lot of these are based in Russia - and as long as they're not attacking the Russian government systems or within the borders they're fine".

He said such a solution will soon be outdated as the hackers "cop on because they realise people are using that - but it's a just a quick fix at the moment".

A ransomware attack last week has severely impacted some HSE services, while personal medical information stolen during the attack has been shared online.

The Financial Times says it saw screenshots and files containing patient data, minutes of meetings and equipment purchase details.

Some 27 files were downloadable on a website, which included 12 files about individual patients.

In the case of one of the named files, it is said to have included a full admission report for a named individual.

Two hands type on a keyboard while the screen shows the words "Enter Password" in Berlin, Germany in 2017 Two hands type on a keyboard while the screen shows the words "Enter Password" in Berlin, Germany in 2017. Picture by: Monika Skolimowska/dpa

It featured details of the person's doctor, contact names and numbers for the their next of kin, details of lab reports and notes on the patient's admission to hospital.

The Government has insisted that it will not pay any of the ransom, reported to be in the amount of US$19.99m (€16.28m).

Meanwhile the Russian ambassador to Ireland, Yury Filatov, has said his country has offered to conduct a joint investigation into the HSE cyber attack.

Prof Curran said health systems generally are seen as outdated 'sitting ducks'.

"Healthcare systems around the world who are notorious for having generally poorly protected [systems] - because they also have legacy systems.

"That means systems which are older... there's so many systems within the healthcare system which all have to be connected, and some of these are going back 20 years.

"So all the healthcare systems in the world are generally sitting ducks because you have such a wide [number of] clinics here and there, and remote logins everywhere else".

He said he agrees with the approach of never paying such ransoms, but this is very difficult to enforce.

"What can the Government do - in some ways they're damned if they do and damned if they don't.

"The only way around ransomware in the future possibly is for all the Governments in the world agreeing never to pay a ransom and to make it illegal.

"But the fact is how do you enforce that?"

He added that businesses which believe it is worth paying the ransom to retrieve their data can do so without the Government's knowledge.

"There's people out there who negotiate with ransomwares, there's companies out there who pay the fines to go under the radar.

"So what is the solution? Well of course the solution is to have back-ups."

'Russian keyboard' could protect you from potential cyber hack, expert says

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

   

Main image by Никита Сажин from Pixabay 

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