Ransomware Sets Sights On Healthcare Organizations

A string of hospitals in both the US and Australia have come under attack by hackers in recent weeks. They have been targeted by ransomware attacks that have effectively shut a number of them down.  As of the time this article was written, the Northport Medical center, Fayette Medical Center, and DCH Regional Medical Center in Alabama have only limited access to their computing systems.

A spokesman for the hospitals had this to say about the attack:

“The three hospitals of the DCH Health System have experienced a ransomware attack.  A criminal is limiting our ability to use our computer systems in exchange for an as-yet-unknown payment. That said, we feel it is in the best interest of patient safety that DCH Regional Medical Center, Northport Medical Center and Fayette Medical center are closed to all but the most critical new patients.  Our staff is caring for the patients who are currently in the hospital and we have no plans to transfer current patients. Unfortunately, the damage to our computer system was such that we are unable to recover the data stored there and, with our backup system encrypted as well, we cannot rebuild our medical records.”

The situation is hardly better in Australia, where a total of seven hospitals were impacted.

A spokesman for the hospitals in Australia had this to say:

“The cyber incident, which was uncovered on Monday, has blocked access to several systems by the infiltration of ransomware, including financial management…Hospitals have isolated and disconnected a number of systems such as internet to quarantine the infection.”

Like the American hospitals, the infected Australian hospitals have lost access to their patient records, booking and management systems and have fallen back to keeping manual records to maintain some level of functionality.

This is a serious, coordinated attack and is no doubt a harbinger of things to come.  Lives are very definitely at risk and unfortunately, as the hackers refine their approach, their attacks are only going to get more devastating.  Dark times.

AMCA Suffers A Medical Patient Information Breach

The recent hack of the American Medical Collection Agency (AMCA) is having ripple effects around the world.

Recently it was reported that as a direct consequence of that hack, Quest Diagnostics (one of the largest diagnostic testing laboratory services in the United States) was breached. This resulted in the exposure of millions of patient records.

These records may have included Social Security numbers, payment card information, and personally identifiable medical information.

Now, a second report has surfaced, this time involving OPKO Health Inc, which maintains offices in more than thirty countries around the world.  They’ve recently reported that one of their subsidiaries, BioReference laboratories, Inc has received the same notification the Quest Labs received.  They’ve been breached, and as a result, more than 400,000 Opko Health Clients have had their personal and confidential data exposed.

Granted, this breach is not nearly as large or as sweeping as the recent Quest Labs breach. Taken together however, that leaves nearly 12 million patient records exposed.  It hasn’t been a good month for companies operating in the health care space, to say the least.

Part of the official statement released by AMCA reads as follows:

“AMCA advised that AMCA’s affected system includes information provided by BioReference that may have included patient name, date of birth, address, phone, date of service, provider, and balance information.  In addition, the affected AMCA system also included credit card information, bank account information (but no passwords or security questions) and email addresses that were provided by the consumer to AMCA.

AMCA has reported to BioReference that it is continuing to investigate this incident, has reported the AMCA Incident to law enforcement and has taken steps to increase the security of its systems, processes and data, including shutting down its web payments page, migrating it to a third-party vendor, and hiring a cybersecurity firm to implement various safeguards to increase security.”

It’s a fairly boilerplate response at this point, and scant consolation to the millions of patients who have now had their information exposed.  Be on the lookout for a formal communication from BioReference if you’ve made use of them for testing.