Cybersecurity agencies in the U.S. and Canada have issued an alert about the growing number of ransomware attacks affecting healthcare organizations. In the past month, five have reported being hit by computer viruses.
The San Diego Union Tribune reports that a Prime Healthcare Services hospital, Alvarado Hospital Medical Center in San Diego, has been hit by a “malicious software” infection. Last month, two other computer virus infections hit Prime hospitals: Chino (Calif.) Valley Medical Center and Desert Valley Hospital in Victorville.
King's Daughters' Health in southeast Indiana locked down its computer systems Wednesday after discovering that a single employee's files were infected with a ransomware virus. Patient data had not be compromised, the hospital said in a statement on its website.
Meanwhile, MedStar Health, Columbia, Md., over the weekend was still battling to fully restore its computer systems after a malware attack it experienced a week ago.
Hackers' success with ransomware goes back to 2012 when it netted an estimated $33,000 a day.
That has led to a proliferation of ransomware variants, said the statement from the United States-Computer Emergency Readiness Team and the Canadian Cyber Incident Response Center.
Some variants of ransomware encrypt not just the files on the infected device but also the contents of shared or networked drives, according to US-CERT/CCIRC. These variants render the users' files useless until criminals receive a ransom.
One variant, called Locky, has infected computers belonging to healthcare facilities and hospitals in the U.S., Germany and New Zealand, the cybersecurity organizations warned.
It propagates through spam e-mails that include malicious Microsoft Office documents or compressed attachments (e.g., .rar, .zip).
In a pair of updates posted to its website, MedStar reported Sunday it had restored its private network for physician communications. On Friday, it reported its inpatient and outpatient EHRs and its registration and scheduling systems were functioning.
In February, officials at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles paid a $17,000 ransom in bitcoins to end a cyberattack that had its computer systems compromised for more than a week.