FBI Warns of Cyber Attacks Targeting Hospital Systems
“The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued a warning that cyber criminals are unleashing a major ransomware attack targeting U.S. health care systems. A major hospital chain, Universal Health Services, has been hit by what appears to be one of the largest medical cyberattacks in United States history.
Computer systems for Universal Health Services, which has more than 400 locations, primarily in the U.S., began to fail over the weekend, and some hospitals have had to resort to filing patient information with pen and paper, according to multiple people familiar with the situation.
Ransomware is a type of malicious software that spreads across computer networks, encrypting files and demanding payment for a key to decrypt them. It’s become a common tactic for hackers, though attacks of this scale against medical facilities aren’t common. Hackers seeking to deploy ransomware often wait until the weekend, when a company is likely to not have as many technical staff members present.
Kenneth White, a computer security engineer with more than a decade of experience working with hospital networks, said that the delays caused by ransomware attacks can have dire consequences for patients.
“When nurses and physicians can’t access labs, radiology or cardiology reports, that can dramatically slow down treatment, and in extreme cases, force re-routing for critical care to other treatment centers,” he said. “When these systems go down, there is the very real possibility that people can die.”