US Hospitals Divert Care After Cyber-attack

A cyber-attack forced hospitals in West Virginia and Ohio to divert patients to other care providers and work from paper records.

Threat actors targeted Memorial Health System with ransomware on the morning of August 15. The assault disrupted the IT systems at nearly all the health system's 64 clinics and three hospitals – Marietta Memorial, Selby General, and Sistersville General.

By midnight on Sunday, the hospitals were turning away patients, except for heart-attack, stroke and trauma patients, and sending them to Camden Clark Medical Center and Belpre Medical Campus. This may have increased the waiting time for care by as much as an hour for some patients.

The attack triggered the cancellation of radiology examinations and non-urgent operations as staff were unable to access IT systems. 

On August 18, the health system issued a statement announcing that it worked with national cybersecurity experts to resolve the impact of the attack.

"We have reached a negotiated solution and are beginning the process that will restore operations as quickly and as safely as possible," said Memorial Health System president and CEO Scott Cantley. 

"We are following a deliberate, systematic approach to bring systems back online securely and in a manner that prioritizes our ability to provide patient care."

Cantley did not state whether the negotiations involved the health system's agreeing to pay a ransom to the attackers but added that IT systems could be back online as early as Sunday. 

Early indications are that the attack did not involve a data leak. 

Cantley said: "As we conduct our IT remediation work, our security experts have been monitoring and have not noted any indication that any patient or employee data has been publicly released or disclosed."

He added that the health service planned to strengthen its existing cybersecurity defenses.

"Moving forward, the health system will continue to focus on remediation technology that will be added to already intensive security systems," said Cantley. 

"It is unfortunate that many health care organizations are confronting the impacts of an evolving cyber-threat landscape. We continue to implement enhancements to our information security, systems, and monitoring capabilities."

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