A California hospital’s computer network is under attack by hackers who won’t go away until they’re paid $3.6 million, according to the Verge. The hospital has moved all of its patients to nearby facilities and is reportedly using faxes to communicate in the absence of email.
The hackers — whose identities are unknown — have been holding the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center’s network hostage for a little more than a week, and everything from basic computer functions to connected medical devices have been affected at the 434-bed facility. The source of the ransomware on the network is currently unknown, but officials have indicated it may have been installed unwittingly by a hospital employee who perhaps opened up a malicious link from an email.
Hospital workers have been told to keep their systems offline until they hear otherwise and have been keeping documentation of patient visits in paper form while the networks are under attack. Essential functions like CT scans, lab work, some patient data and pharmacy needs have been impacted by the ransomware.
The breach was discovered last week and the effort to right the ship has involved the FBI, Los Angeles Police Department and cybersecurity experts, according to NBC’s Los Angeles station, KNBC-TV. While the hospital is reportedly complying with those efforts it is unclear if the institution plans on paying the ransom if the attackers are not identified by law enforcement. A deadline for paying the ransom wasn't disclosed to reporters.
Ransomware is a form of malware that generally locks all of the computer’s functions until the owner of the computer or network pays a fee through, usually, a digital currency like bitcoin. That currency is favored because it is difficult to track down once it is paid out. The computers usually display a message with a countdown timer that says the data stored on the computers will be wiped if the ransom isn’t paid in time.
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While this is one of the most notable attacks in recent history, ransomware has been found on other government networks like schools and police departments. Those instances also involved the FBI. Efforts to counteract the data breaches may not be all that effective, either, as one FBI official has encouraged people whose computer networks fall victim to ransomware to just pay the fee. Computers owned by individuals have also been targeted by ransomware aggressors.