New York state lawmakers have promised to make helping local governments, schools and hospitals protect against cyber ransomware attacks a top priority during the 2023 legislative session.
It comes after a wave of such attacks hit institutions across the Empire State, with the computer systems of a major Brooklyn hospital network and those of the Suffolk County government disabled by hackers last year.
“This is a top item on my agenda for 2023,” said Steven Otis, chairman of the Assembly Science and Technology Committee.
“I am especially sensitive to local government and school districts being targets of ransomware attacks,” said Otis. “We have to get into prevent mode.”
A study just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the number of ransomware attacks against hospitals and other medical institutions more than doubled from 2016 to 2021 — from 43 to 91 nationally, and that figure is likely under-reported.
Hospitals are among the top targets of hackers because of all the personal information they have stored about patients.
The computer database systems for Brooklyn One Health System containing private patient information and medical records were disabled by hackers last November. The hospital network — which includes Brookdale, Interfaith and Kingsbrook Jewish hospitals — was forced to go back to a manual system of pen and paper.
Hackers also breached a Suffolk County web server in a cyberattack on Sept. 8, 2022, demanding a $2.5 million ransom. An investigation found that the hackers had initially breached Suffolk’s database in December 2021, exploiting a flaw in the software and remaining there for nine months before posting a ransomware note demanding $2.5 million.
Even the Metropolitan Opera’s Box Office was hacked last month.
“Ransomware attacks and cyber hackers are the existential threat of our times,” said former state Sen. Diane Savino, who chaired the committee on Internet and technology and is now a senior adviser to New York…