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US Health Care Payments Disrupted by Ransomware Attack

A attack on Optum, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, has resulted in a nationwide network called Change Healthcare being taken down. This has led to pharmacies, healthcare providers, and patients having difficulty filling prescriptions for life-saving medicines. The syndicate responsible for this attack is known as AlphV or Black Cat, which has been accused by UnitedHealth Group of its subsidiary Optum. AlphV is one of several syndicates that operates in a “-as-a-service” model, meaning affiliates carry out the of victims and then use the AlphV and infrastructure to encrypt files and negotiate a ransom. The parties then share the proceeds.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and partner countries had seized much of the AlphV infrastructure in December to disrupt the group. However, AlphV claimed to have regained its site, leading to a tug-of-war between the group and enforcement. The latest attack on Change Healthcare clearly indicates that AlphV continues to threaten critical parts of the US infrastructure.

Change Healthcare processes approximately 15 billion transactions, including eligibility verifications, pharmacy operations, and claims transmittals and payments. The outage has resulted in the disruption of all these transactions, with the full impact still unknown. Optum has estimated that over 90% of the roughly 70,000 pharmacies in the US have changed how they process electronic claims due to the outage. However, only a few patients have been unable to fill their prescriptions.

This attack highlights the devastating effects of on critical infrastructure, with numerous groups taking down entire hospital networks and threatening patient care. According to the FBI, AlphV has been a vital contributor to the ransomware menace, having collected over $300 million in ransoms. One of the better-known victims of AlphV ransomware was Caesars Entertainment and casinos owned by MGM, which stopped operations in many Las Vegas casinos.

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