EHR hackers turn to extortion

Hackers recently struck a small medical practice in suburban Chicago, encrypted the facility’s digital medical records, and then demanded a ransom payment in exchange for allowing the facility to regain access to its records. Medical industry observers note that this is not the first instance of this new type of criminal hacking activity.

This case should serve as a reminder to healthcare providers that, in addition to significant concerns regarding securing patient data from unlawful access, use or disclosure, such organizations should make sure that their patient data is backed up and accessible through more than one channel, in order to avoid a “hostage” situation like the one described below.

Via Bloomberg News:

As more patient records go digital, a recent hacker attack on a small medical practice shows the big risks involved with electronic files.
The Surgeons of Lake County, a medical facility in the northern Illinois suburb of Libertyville, revealed last month that hackers had burrowed deeply into its computer network, infiltrating a server where e-mails and electronic medical records were stored, Bloomberg.com reported on its Tech Blog.
Unlike many other data breaches, the hackers made no attempt to keep their presence a secret. In fact, they all but fired a flare to announce the break-in, taking the extreme step of encrypting their illicit haul and posting a digital ransom note demanding payment for the password.
The doctors turned the server off and notified the authorities, refusing to pay.

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