Earlier we detailed that computer systems for Universal Health Systems (UHS), a major hospital and healthcare provider with over 400 locations across the U.S., was hit with what appears to be one of the largest medical cyberattacks in US history.
Demonstrating just how prone America’s vital infrastructure remains to large-scale cyber attacks which could debilitate the country’s response efforts in emergency situations, the spate of ransomware attacks have impacted the operations of 53 US health care providers or health care systems so far this year, according a cybersecurity firm cited in the latest NBC report on the attacks.
The worst and most recent instance was centered on a major Cleveland area hospital, which was taken offline for a full week following an apparent cyberattack. The damage from the hack of the Ashtabula County Medical Center’s systems was so bad that all elective procedures at the hospital had to be postponed, reports NBC.
The facility’s computer systems have been offline since Monday, Sept. 21, according to hospital officials. It’s as yet unclear when full hospital operations will be restored, though elective procedures are expected to begin again this week.
“As a result of this incident, we have postponed all elective procedures through Wednesday, Sept. 30,” the medical center CEO Michael Habowski said. “Our emergency department remains open to life-threatening emergencies and walk-in patients, and our outpatient departments and physician offices are continuing to provide care for patients.”
Once inside a system via malicious software which encrypts key files, hackers typically demand payment as a condition for restoring network capabilities. That appears to have happened in this case, part of a broader worrisome trend of hackers targeting American health and industrial sectors.
The NBC report did not delve into the possibility that any particular nefarious outside state actor or entity are behind the surge in cyberattacks, though prior allegations from the State Department and FBI have previously pointed the finger at China and Iran.
These two countries in particular are believed after valuable coronavirus research and vaccine information; however, they would likely attempt to conceal their intrusions.