Florida Heart Associates Operating at 50% Capacity 2 Months After Ransomware Attack

A ransomware attack on Fort Myers, FL-based Florida Heart Associates that started around May 19, 2021 has caused serious and ongoing disruption to its services, with the medical practice only operating at around 50% capacity two months after the attack. Disruption is expected to continue for several more weeks, with the practice not expecting to fully recover until the end of next month or even early September.

Prior to the use of ransomware, the attackers exfiltrated files containing the protected health information of 45,148 patients, including Social Security numbers, member identification numbers, birth dates, and health insurance information. A ransom demand was issued to ensure the deletion of stolen data and to provide the keys to decrypt data, but the decision was taken by the practice not to pay the attackers. The ransomware gang was ejected from the network, but not before much of its IT infrastructure was rendered inoperable.

The investigation revealed its systems were first breached on May 9, 2021, with the hackers deploying ransomware on May 19, when staff were prevented from accessing files. The attack took its IT systems and phone lines out of action, with the phones having only just been brought back online.

Florida Heart Associates CEO Todd Rauchenberger said the practice is still providing care to patients and is now taking walk-in appointments. In addition to having to work without telephones and limited access to IT systems, the practice has lost many members of staff. With the reduction in staff, patients are feeling the effect. Fox4 News reports that patients have not been able to reach the practice by telephone to make appointments, and it has been difficult for many patients to get appointments with a doctor.

Florida Heart Associates has already notified patients about the breach and the exposure of their personal and health information and said it will be implementing additional measures to improve security moving forward, including technical safeguards and reviewing and updating policies and procedures with respect to data privacy and security.

Author: Steve Alder has many years of experience as a journalist, and comes from a background in market research. He is a specialist on legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA. Steve holds a B.Sc. from the University of Liverpool.