Could Russian hackers cripple US health care systems?

Could russian hackers cripple U.S. health care systems?

Sick people seeking lifesaving care in the United States could fall victim to a hidden part of Russia’s war on Ukraine—vicious cyberattacks aimed at sowing disruption, confusion and chaos as ground forces advance.

Cybersecurity experts warn that attacks launched against Ukrainian institutions have the potential to spill over into America’s health care systems, potentially endangering patients’ lives.

The cybersecurity program at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last week issued an analysis warning health care IT officials about two pieces of Russian malware that could wipe out hospital data vital to patient care.

And since early December, the American Hospital Association has been warning about increased risk related to Russian cyberattacks, said John Riggi, the association’s national adviser for cybersecurity and risk.

“We were issuing advisories to the nation’s hospitals and health system, saying the geopolitical tensions would certainly increase the risk of cyberattacks which would impact potentially U.S. health care,” Riggi said.

Such attacks have the potential to cost lives, by cutting doctors and nurses off from needed patient data and causing hospitals under attack to delay scheduled procedures and divert critically ill people to other facilities, Riggi explained.

Nearly a quarter of health care organizations hit by a ransomware attack during the past two years said the attack resulted in increased patient death rates, according to a September 2021 report sponsored by the cybersecurity company Censinet.

Further, about two in five (37%) said such attacks caused an increase in complications from medical procedures, while more than two-thirds (69%) said delays in procedures and tests have led to poor patient outcomes, the report says.

“That is not a financial crime,” Riggi said. “It is a threat-to-life crime, and the government needs to respond to such, including offensive operations against these foreign-based bad guys.”