Hospital Pays Ransom after Security was breached and Hackers seize Control of System

Ransomware is a type of malware that restricts access to the infected computer system in some way and it can be a nightmare. Once it infects a network, it can encrypt all the files and will demand payment (nearly always Bitcoin) before it hands over an unlock key. These attacks often come with a warning that unless the ransom is paid within a set time, the key will be destroyed and the user will never be able to access their data.

Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in California paid a $17,000 ransom in bitcoin to a hacker who seized control of the hospital’s computer systems on 5 February. The hacker refused to give back access until the money was paid.

The hackers used malware to infect the institution’s computers.After the ransomware was discovered, staff at the hospital were forced to use land lines, fax machines, and keep paper records for the 10 days that the network was locked down. Some patients had to be sent to other hospitals for procedures such as CT scans.

In explaining their decision to pay the ransom, Chief Executive, Stefanek  explained, “The malware locks systems by encrypting files and demanding ransom to obtain the decryption key. The quickest and most efficient way to restore our systems and administrative functions was to pay the ransom and obtain the decryption key. In the best interest of restoring normal operations, we did this.” Stefanek said patient care was never compromised, nor were hospital records.

CSO reported that it’s highly unlikely the hospital was specifically targeted, and that the ransomware was likely down to an employee clicking on a malicious link or downloading an unexpected attachment on a hospital computer.

Ransom attacks are still relatively rare. But cyberattacks on hospitals and medical institutions have become more common in recent years as hackers pursue personal information they can use for fraud schemes.

Check back soon for ways to protect yourself from ransomware.

Resources: LA Times