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Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center has declared an internal emergency and is suffering significant IT issues after ransomware was installed on its computer system.
$3.6 Million Ransom Demanded to Unlock Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center Computers
Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center (HPMC) has suffered a ransomware attack that has forced it to take part of its computer network offline as a precaution to prevent the lateral spread of the infection. The ransomware attack took place on February 5, and many of the hospital’s computers have now been out of action for over a week.
No healthcare data have been encrypted, although the ransomware infection is affecting day-to-day healthcare operations. HPMC claims that healthcare patients have not been put at risk although the emergency room has been impacted.
Some of the computers essential for CT scans, laboratory work, and pharmacy operations to take place have been taken out of action, reduc8ing the efficiency of the provision of healthcare services. One physician reportedly told CBS news that the hospital’s email system is still down, and doctors and medical staff are having to resort to communication by fax and telephone, resulting in delays. Medical information is havi8ng to be logged on paper.
Hospital President and CEO Allen Stefanek issued a statement to reporters saying the hospital was suffering “significant IT issues,” with the severity of the situation sufficient to declare an “internal emergency”. Few details of the attack have been released, although Stefanek has said he does not believe the hospital has been targeted, instead this appears to have been a random attack. It is not clear how the ransomware came to be installed, although the malware is typically spread via spam email.
The attack may have been random, but the cybercriminals have not responded with a standard request for a ransom. When individuals have their devices infected with ransomware they are typically asked to pay a ransom of between $300 and $500 to have their computers unlocked. Only if the ransoms are paid will the victims be supplied with the security keys they need to unlock their data.
When businesses inadvertently install ransomware, the criminal gangs behind the malware ask for much larger sums, but not typically the amount reportedly demanded from HPMC. The attackers have allegedly asked for 9,000 Bitcoins as a ransom, which equates to approximately $3.6 million.
The cyberattack has been reported to the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and investigations have been launched to try to identify the attackers behind the ransomware campaign. HPMC has also enlisted the help of computer forensics experts to remove the infection and get its computer system back up and running.
Ransomware Now One of the Biggest Cybersecurity Threats
Ransomware is now one of the biggest cybersecurity threats faced by IT professionals. All of the major players in the antivirus software market reported massive increases in the number of ransomware samples discovered in 2014, and last year saw record numbers of new ransomware variants discovered. In the second quarter of 2015, Intel Security reported 4 million samples had been discovered. Over a quarter of those samples were new ransomware variants.
While many U.S. businesses have been targeted or have fallen victim to random attacks over the past two years, healthcare organizations have so far escaped relatively unscathed. However, many security professionals fear that will change in 2016 as we enter into a new age of digital extortion.