Calif. Hospital Taken Offline by Ransomware

The hospital has transferred patients as it attempts to bring its database back online.

2/19 UPDATE: Officials at Hollywood Presbyterian have paid the hackers $16,664 (or 40 bitcoins) in order to regain access to its computer network.

“The quickest and most efficient way to restore our systems and administrative functions was to pay the ransom and obtain the decryption key,” Hospital CEO Allen Stefanek said on Feb. 17. Stefanek did not say if the FBI or anyone else recommended he pay the fee, according to Yahoo! Finance.

Stefanek characterized the attack as random and not malicious, according to Forbes, although news outlets reported it greatly restricted the hospital functioning. The hospital’s network is fully operational again.

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A Southern California hospital’s computer network has been down since Feb. 5 because of a ransomware infection.

Doctors and nurses at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center are completely locked out of the hospital’s infrastructure and a hacker is demanding about $3.6 million to restore the database, according to themerkel.com.

Ransomware is a type of malware that restricts access to computers while demanding the users pay a ransom. The ransom is paid with the online currency Bitcoin through what’s known as the “dark web.” The hospital reported the ransomware on Feb. 5 and the LAPD and FBI quickly began an investigation.

Although it is unclear if any patient or employee information has been compromised, lab work, medical records and email are completely inaccessible. X-Ray and CT scan machines are also unusable because they rely on computers. A new strain of ransomware called “Locky” may have been used in the cyberattack. Locky encrypts or “scrambles” a long list of files, such as videos, source code and word documents, and requests money to de-scramble them, according to nakedsecurity.com.

An unnamed doctor said hospital employees are currently communicating through jammed fax machines, telephones and paper.

RELATED: Researchers Find Widespread Hacking Vulnerabilities in Medical Devices

Many patients were transferred to new hospitals over the weekend and a doctor said that some patients have missed important treatments. Some of the hospital’s emergency rooms have also been affected.

Digital forensic experts are continuing to investigate. Hospital President and CEO Allen Stefanek called the situation “very dangerous.”

About the Author

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Zach Winn is a journalist living in the Boston area. He was previously a reporter for Wicked Local and graduated from Keene State College in 2014, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism and minoring in political science.

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