March 30, 2016 by staff · Comments Off
MedStar Computer Virus, Hackers crippled computer systems Monday at a major hospital chain, MedStar Health Inc., forcing records systems offline for thousands of patients and doctors. The FBI said it was investigating whether the unknown hackers demanded a ransom to restore systems.
A computer virus paralyzed some operations at Washington-area hospitals and doctors’ offices, leaving patients unable to book appointments and staff locked out of their email accounts. Some employees were required to turn off all computers since Monday morning.
A law enforcement official said the FBI was assessing whether the virus was so-called ransomware, in which hackers extort money in exchange for returning a victim’s systems to normal. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss publicly details about the ongoing criminal investigation.
“We can’t do anything at all. There’s only one system we use, and now it’s just paper,” said one MedStar employee who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity because this person was not authorized to speak to reporters.
MedStar said in a statement that the virus prevented some employees from logging into systems. It said all of its clinics remain open and functioning and there was no immediate evidence that patient information had been stolen.
Company spokeswoman Ann Nickels said she couldn’t say whether it was a ransomware attack. She said patient care was not affected and the hospitals were using a paper backup system.
When asked whether hackers demanded payment, Nickels said: “I don’t have an answer to that,” and referred to the company’s statement.
Dr. Richard Alcorta, medical director for Maryland’s emergency medical services network, said he suspects it was a ransomware attack. He said his suspicion was based on multiple earlier ransomware attempts on individual hospitals in the state. Alcorta said he was unaware of any ransoms paid by Maryland hospitals or health care systems.
“People view this, I think, as a form of t*rror*sm and are attempting to extort money by attempting to infect them with this type of virus,” he said.