So, something seemingly crazy happened last week, the Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital on Wednesday February 17th announced that it paid nearly $17,000 to resume normal operations after digital extortionists knocked its computer systems offline for a period of time. Thats right, a cyber attack occurred on a hospital and resulted in a ransom being paid to resume normal operation.
The Los Angeles hospital discovered its computer network was completely infected with ransom malware earlier in the month. This form of malware (also known as ransomware) scrambles data and key files on a system and demands a ransom be paid for a digital key to unscramble that data. After paying a ransom of 40 bitcoins, or $17,000USD in total to the extortionists, the hospital was able to bring its electronic medical record system back online. Bitcoins for the uninitiated, are a digital currency favored by cybercriminals because they can be extremely difficult to trace.
Overall, the scale of the attack was relatively minor. Thankfully there were no real injuries or mishaps involved in the mess. What makes this attack especially notable is the fact that the attack affected systems involved in clinical care, which usually is not the target of these sorts of cyber terrorists. The incident may also change the thinking of healthcare security pros about their systems.
As we progress into a fully digital era, these sorts of attacks may unfortunately become more and more prevalent. And to match the avenues in which criminals take advantage of the innocent, our ability to enforce security has to evolve as well. Hopefully preventative technologies can continue to evolve, so as to keep these incidents to a minimum.