Major Florida Hospital Shuts Down Networks, Ransomware Attack Suspected

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A major hospital  in northern Florida reported a security issue on Friday that forced the shutdown of its IT network and the consequent diversion of some emergency medical services (EMS) patients and cancellation of surgeries.

Writing in a blog post on Friday, Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare said it was following existing protocols for system downtime and taking steps to minimize the disruption.

The hospital then published an update on Saturday, saying it continued to divert some EMS patients. It also confirmed that all non-emergency surgical and outpatient procedures had been canceled and rescheduled until today (Monday).

"This is an active, ongoing investigation," reads the post. "We contacted law enforcement when this incident occurred, and we continue to work with the appropriate law enforcement agencies. We are also working with third-party experts to assist in the investigation."

In a further update published on Sunday, the hospital said that all non-emergency surgical and outpatient procedures scheduled for Monday were canceled and rescheduled.

"We are still operating under downtime procedures, which means we are using paper documentation. We apologize for any delays this may create."

According to Jan Lovmand, CTO of security firm BullWall, the healthcare industry remains one of the most at-risk sectors for cyber-attacks.

"Hospitals and healthcare organizations are particularly attractive targets for cyber-criminals, and their reliance on technology to manage everything from patient records to surgical equipment makes them uniquely vulnerable. This is compounded by their limited resources to invest in cybersecurity measures." Lovmand told Infosecurity in an email.

The security expert added that these attacks not only disrupt the delivery of essential medical services, postponing critical surgeries and treatments and putting patients' lives at risk but also compromise the security of sensitive patient information.

"The impact of these attacks can be devastating, as they can leave hospitals struggling to recover their data and regain control of their systems. Whether the ransom is paid or not, the costs in dollars and lost patient care severely cripple these already struggling institutions."

At the time of writing, it has not yet been confirmed whether the Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare disruptions were caused by a cyber-attack or how long the hospital intends to keep its system offline.

More information about how healthcare providers (HCPs) can protect customer data is available in this analysis by Treasure Data's Michelle Teuscher.

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