Ransomware attack forces US healthcare provider to turn away patients

News by Doug Olenick

DCH Health Systems, USA, is turning away all but the most critical patients from its three hospitals in response to its computer network being rendered unusable by a ransomware attack

DCH Health Systems in Alabama, USA, is turning away all but the most critical patients from its three hospitals in response to its computer network being rendered unusable by a ransomware attack.

One day prior, several hospital’s in Australia were also forced offline by a ransomware attack.

The attack hit DCH on October 1 prompting the Alabama hospital network to implement emergency procedures. DCH has only given out a limited amount of information with no mention of how far the ransomware spread or if there has been a ransom demand.

 While the attack has impacted DCH’s ability to accept new patients, we are still able to provide critical medical services to those who need it. Patients who have non-emergency medical needs are encouraged to seek assistance from other providers while DCH works to restore its systems," the facility said on its Facebook page.

SC Media has attempted to contact DCH for additional information.

Felix Rosbach, product manager at comforte AG, told SC Media that due to the highly sensitive nature of medical information many providers are unwilling to trust it to outside, cloud-based organisations, but he noted there are procedures and technology available that will protect his data.

"The fact that hackers target hospitals shows they have no remorse for the desperate patients who seek aid. Hospitals contain some of the most sensitive information we have, such as medical records, payment information and other personal identifiable information. The adoption of a data centric security approach, protecting sensitive data with pseudonymisation technology like tokenisation, allows organisations to embrace modern technology like hybrid or multi-cloud computing while still being compliant and secure. This results in more options for fallback and less risk when it comes to ransomware attacks."

JJ Thompson, Sophos’ senior director of managed threat response, agreed.

"Ransomware is foreseeable and preventable. Organisations need to have effective, advanced protection in place at every state of an attack. The techniques, tactics and procedures that occur prior to a ransomware incident can and should be detected by existing security capabilities and are foundational pillars to the patient care model in healthcare 4.0. It’s also important to have off-site backups to reduce the pressure to comply with expensive ransom demands and to be able to recover faster," he said.

Australia’s Department of Premier and Cabinet reported on 30 September the information technology systems at a number of hospitals and health services in Gippsland and south-west Victoria were hit with ransomware.

To combat the attack some systems have been shut down and where practicable staffers have switched paper record keeping and some procedures are being rescheduled.

The original version of this article was published on SC Media US.

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