Cyber Siege: Healthcare System Under Attack

Healthcare Under Fire: Building Digital Defenses Against Cyber Siege | Insider Market Research

(Source – LinkedIn)

A significant healthcare network in the United States declared on Thursday that it was rerouting ambulances away from “several” of its hospitals in the wake of a cyberattack earlier in the week.

Ascension, a nonprofit organization headquartered in St. Louis, which oversees 140 hospitals across 19 states, disclosed that the cyberattack had not only disrupted access to electronic health records but also affected phone systems and various platforms used for ordering tests, procedures, and medications. This revelation came through a statement issued by Ascension on Thursday evening.

Ascension Diverts Ambulances Amid Cyber Crisis

The sprawling healthcare conglomerate, which also manages 40 senior living facilities, announced that it would be implementing “downtime procedures” for an unspecified duration due to the cyberattack. Downtime procedures typically involve reverting to backup processes, such as paper records, to ensure patient care can continue in the event of computer system failures.

News of the cyberattack surfaced on Wednesday, prompting Ascension to swiftly employ a strategy familiar to many American organizations targeted by cybercriminals. The company promptly informed federal authorities of the incident, enlisted the services of Mandiant, a prominent US cybersecurity firm, to mitigate the attack, and initiated system shutdowns in an attempt to contain the situation.

“We are actively supporting our ministries as they continue to provide safe, patient care with established downtime protocols and procedures, in which our workforce is well trained,” stated Ascension in its Thursday evening release.

The extent of the impact on Ascension’s hospitals, particularly regarding the diversion of ambulances, remained unclear. A spokesperson for Ascension did not respond immediately to inquiries seeking clarification on the matter.

This incident is the latest in a series of major hacking episodes that have disrupted significant US healthcare networks, prompting urgent responses from government officials.

Escalating Cyber Threats Prompt Urgent Action in US Healthcare

In February, a ransomware attack targeted Change Healthcare, a subsidiary of the healthcare giant UnitedHealth Group, resulting in billing disruptions at pharmacies nationwide and posing a threat to the viability of certain healthcare providers. During testimony before Congress, UnitedHealth CEO Andrew Witty estimated that a third of Americans may have had their personal data compromised in the attack. To protect patient data, UnitedHealth reportedly paid a $22 million ransom to the cybercriminals responsible for the breach.

The cyberattack on Change Healthcare sparked outrage among US lawmakers and triggered inquiries across the federal government into the vulnerability of the nation’s healthcare infrastructure to disruptive cyber threats. The recent attack on Ascension only serves to underscore the pressing need for robust cybersecurity measures within the healthcare sector to mitigate the potentially devastating consequences of such incidents.

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