The Recent Change Healthcare Ransomware Attack: Lessons Learned and How to Prevent Similar Breaches

Robert MacDonald

The recent ransomware attack on Change Healthcare, a major healthcare technology company, has once again highlighted the critical importance of robust identity verification and authentication measures in safeguarding sensitive data and systems. While the details of the attack are still unfolding, the preliminary investigation has revealed that the root cause was the absence of multi-factor authentication on a remote access application used by Change Healthcare’s staff.

This lapse in security best practices allowed cybercriminals to compromise employee credentials and gain unauthorized access to the company’s networks. The attackers then spent nine days lurking within the systems before launching the ransomware attack, which disrupted critical healthcare services across the United States. To be fair, it is hard to say if properly implemented MFA would have even helped as bad actors are getting increasingly good at attacks like SIM Swapping, social engineering, stealing OTPs, etc. and these attacks have seen a dramatic increases in the last few years.

The Change Healthcare incident is a sobering reminder that even large, well-established organizations can fall victim to cyber threats when they fail to implement the necessary identity and access controls. In an era where remote work and cloud-based services have become the norm, the attack surface for malicious actors has expanded significantly, making it crucial for organizations to re-evaluate their security posture and adopt robust identity management solutions.

This is where the 1Kosmos platform can play a pivotal role in preventing similar breaches. Our solution offers a comprehensive approach to identity verification and authentication, addressing the key vulnerabilities that were exploited in the Change Healthcare attack.

Robust Identity Proofing

The 1Kosmos platform provides a secure and frictionless way to verify user identities, ensuring that only legitimate individuals can access sensitive systems and data. Our identity proofing capabilities, which are certified to NIST 800-63-3 and other industry standards, can detect and prevent the use of stolen or synthetic identities, a common tactic employed by cybercriminals.

Passwordless Multi-Factor Authentication

The absence of multi-factor authentication was a critical factor in the Change Healthcare breach. The 1Kosmos platform offers a range of passwordless authentication methods, including biometrics, push notifications, and hardware tokens, to provide a robust and user-friendly way to verify user identities and prevent unauthorized access.

Decentralized Identity Management

Unlike traditional identity management systems, the 1Kosmos platform leverages a private, permissioned blockchain to store and manage user identities. This decentralized approach eliminates the risk of a centralized “honeypot” of information that can be targeted by hackers, as seen in the Change Healthcare incident.

Audit Trail and Compliance

The 1Kosmos platform maintains a detailed, immutable audit trail of all identity-related events, including login attempts, access requests, and data sharing activities. This level of visibility and transparency not only helps organizations detect and respond to security incidents but also ensures compliance with industry regulations and standards.

Benefits of a Single Authentication Platform

The lessons learned from the Change Healthcare ransomware attack serve as a stark reminder that even the most well-established organizations are vulnerable to cyber threats when they fail to prioritize identity and access management. By adopting a comprehensive identity management solution like the 1Kosmos platform, organizations can significantly reduce the risk of similar breaches and ensure the security and integrity of their sensitive data and systems.

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Meet the Author

Robert MacDonald

Vice President of Product Marketing

Robert is the Vice President of Product Marketing at 1Kosmos. He is a highly influential senior global marketer with more than 15 years of marketing experience in B2B and B2C software in the biometric authentication space. Prior to 1Kosmos, Rob managed product strategy and vision for the Identity and Access Management portfolio at Micro Focus, leading a team of product marketers to drive sales and support the channel. Earlier in his career he set the foundation for content planning, sales enablement and GTM activities for ForgeRock. He has also held senior marketing positions at Entrust, Dell, Quest and Corel Corporation.