When ransomware gets deadly: Attack brings down hospital system

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A Marietta, Ohio-based hospital chain was recently forced to shut down IT systems and cancel surgeries, underscoring the deadly ramifications of ransomware.

In the wake of the attack, which took place on August 15, Memorial Health System was reduced to working with paper charts. 

The attack resulted in disruptions to clinical and financial operations, Memorial said in an Aug. 18 statement.

Memorial Health System covers 325 providers representing 64 clinics, spread across southeastern Ohio and parts of West Virginia, according to its website.

In the wake of the attack, which took place on August 15, Memorial Health System was reduced to working with paper charts.  (iStock / iStock)

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While urgent and elective surgical cases were postponed – a serious consequence of the attack – emergency cases, which are the most critical, were not canceled, Jennifer Offenberger, associate vice president of service excellence at MHS, told FOX Business in an interview.

“There’s a difference between urgent and emergent,” she said – the latter referring to emergency cases. “Emergent is life-threatening…urgent is something that might need to be done but it has a little broader time scale to it.”

But underscoring the gravity of the attack, the FBI, Homeland Security and other security organizations were brought in to restore information operations, according to Offenberger.

“We could not access our servers which contain all of our patient data,” she said.

MHS has been negotiating with the attackers with assistance from the FBI, Homeland Security and insurance carriers, Offenberger said, adding that “This was ransomware. We have a negotiated solution.”

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One of the most distressing facts about ransomware is that it often requires a payment – sometimes millions of dollars – to restore operations. Offenberger did not disclose the details of the negotiations.

Memorial Health System President and CEO Scott Cantley said on Aug. 18…

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