Hackers using ransomware hold hospital network hostage for $3.6 million

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Hackers have been holding Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center hostage for more than a week now. Using a sophisticated ransomware, the hackers are demanding a $3.6 million payout from the hospital to decrypt the hospital’s system.

The 434 bed facility discovered the breach a little more than week ago and efforts to discover the parties responsible has involved the LAPD and FBI. Although the source of the ransomware on the network has yet to be disclosed. Officials have speculated that it was probably caused by an employee unwittingly opening a malicious link from an email.

Vital functions such as CT Scan, EMRs, lab works, and pharmaceutical needs have been severely impacted. The situation has gotten so dire that patients have been transferred to nearby facilities. Employees have to rely on paper documentation, phone lines, and fax machines to make sure that vital information are delivered in a timely manner.

Ransomware works by locking out the user’s computer system until a set amount of money has been paid to the hacker. The fee is usually paid through Bitcoin, a popular currency for hackers because it is virtually untraceable once it has been paid out. A common feature with ransomware that it will display how much time the user has left before their data is completely wiped out.

This is one of the more well known attacks in recent history, however it is not the first nor is it the last. Public institutions like government agencies and public schools have all been victims to ransomware before. Due to the sensitive and vital nature of health information found on a hospital network, it is likely that attacks such as this will continue to happen.

UPDATE: Hollywood Presbyterian has decided to pay a $17,000 ransom to the hackers holding its system hostage via bitcoin. 

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Phuong Tran

Phuong Tran is a Carnegie Mellon University-Heinz College graduate with a degree in healthcare policy and management. In his spare time he enjoys discovering new restaurants and playing basketball.

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