Hospital Held Hostage By Hackers Pays Ransom to Regain Control of Computers

A nearly two-week-long cyberattack forced Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, to revert to paper registrations and medical records and send 911 patients to other area hospitals as its computers were blocked by hackers demanding $3.7 million worth of bitcoins. The hospital paid up $17,000 to regain control of its system.

The cyberattack is made when a malware program engages as soon as a victim clicks on a compromised website or email. The virus then locks the victim’s computer.

The “virus” blocked access to medical records, including test results and registration of new patient, and emails, forcing staff to use paper and pens, as well as faxes and “old-school” record-keeping systems until the bounty is paid. Computers are also essential for lab work and the sharing of X-rays and CT scans.

According to the hospital, “patient care has not been compromised.” However, its patients were directly affected by the attack. Many came to the Center to pick up medical test results in person. Some of the emergency patients had to be diverted to neighboring facilities, while others missed treatments.

Cyber security experts warn that in addition to being wary of email attachments and malicious websites, outside software should have the latest updates and in-house software needs to be screened for loopholes that could be accessed by hackers. Companies should also avoid circumventing passwords or setting shared or default profiles that work around security measures. And, at the very least, businesses should back up their data so hard drives can be wiped and restored to their previous states.

It is not yet known whether hackers took patient or employee data, so officials cannot confirm whether ransomware was the main reason for the attack.

California state Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) has introduced legislation that would stiffen penalties against hackers, with those convicted of ransomware schemes receiving up to four years in prison.

(Sources: Los Angeles Times 2/18/2016 / RT USA 2/18/2016)