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Patients turned away after likely ransomware attack

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Medical cyber-attacks seem to be becoming more common and this example from Washington's MedStar Health shows how they can disrupt services to patients.

MedStar officials have refused to characterize the attack as “ransomware,” a virus used to hold systems hostage until victims pay for a key to regain access. But a number of employees reported seeing a pop-up message on their computer screens seeking payment in bitcoins, an Internet currency. One woman who works at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center sent The Washington Post an image of the ransom note, which demanded that the $5 billion health-care provider pay 45 bitcoins – equivalent to about $19,000 – in exchange for the digital key that would release the data.

Another site published a screen shot of the ransom note that appeared on employees’ computers:

medstar-screen-shot-1

Image resized.

These issues show the security problems that provider organizations can have if they under fund their IT departments. It also shows how quickly EHR systems have become critical for hospital operations and the story talks about the challenges of returning to a paper-based workflow.

At MedStar Washington Hospital Center, one nurse who worked overnight described the situation as difficult. Without access to email and computer systems, the medical staff fell back on seldom-used paper records that had to be faxed or hand-delivered. But this nurse and another told The Post that the paper charts are far less comprehensive than those kept in digital form. They can be missing vital pieces of patient information: complete medical histories, every drug prescribed, allergies to medicine and treatment plans.

Source: The Washington Post

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