Hospital Returns to Pen and Paper After Virus Shuts Down IT Systems

Hackers believed to be involved

A virus succeeded in shutting down the entire computer network at the Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, New York, but officials said the event did not affect the care delivered to patients or nursing-home residents, according to an article in the Buffalo News.

Hospital and nursing-home staff manually admitted patients, filled prescriptions, and scheduled exams as technology staffers worked to bring computer systems back online. The staff followed training that was put in place to use in case of a power outage

Hospital officials wouldn’t say whether they were victims of “ransomware,” in which hackers shut down a computer system until the owner pays a ransom. The attack remains under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the State Police.

Asked how the virus entered the hospital’s computer network, a spokesman declined to comment. When asked directly whether the hospital had received a demand for payment, he also declined comment.

Hospitals are frequent targets of ransomware, according to the article. In a notable case, hackers shut down the computer systems at the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in California and demanded a ransom paid in bitcoin. About two weeks later, the hospital capitulated and paid the hackers the equivalent of $17,000.

Ransomware attacks have also occurred at hospitals in Germany, Canada, Texas, and Virginia.

Source: Buffalo News; April 11, 2017.