Hackers Force ER Patients To Seek Care Elsewhere

(NationalUSNews.com) — Ardent Health Services says they first became aware of a cyber-attack on their company on Thanksgiving Day. Ardent operates over 200 medical facilities, including 30 hospitals in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Idaho, New Mexico, and New Jersey. In response to the breach, they immediately took their network offline, temporarily suspending users’ access to information technology applications, including corporate servers and clinical programs.

Ardent has been diverting emergency patients to other hospitals and rescheduling non-emergency procedures for the time being. Their clinics are still providing stabilizing treatments and medical screenings. One of their hospitals in Texas was taken off divert status on Tuesday and has started receiving ambulances again.

Cyber-attacks and ransomware attacks are becoming an increasing danger to hospitals, according to the Institute for Security and Technology. They say there were over 299 ransomware attacks on hospitals in 2023 alone. In these scenarios, malicious hackers breach networks and render them unusable; medical centers are put in the untenable position of paying the ransom or endangering their patients.

Former chief of staff at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Kiersten Todt, says that this has become an economic model that capitalizes on fear for human lives. Co-director of the UC San Diego Center for Healthcare Security, Dr. Christian Demef, commented that when the systems are down, it becomes difficult for medical personnel to do their jobs effectively, and malicious people want to make money off the time-sensitive difficulties these cyberattacks cause hospitals.

Ardent says that they are being proactive about patient safety by implementing additional information technology security protocols, and they are currently working with cybersecurity partners to restore normal technological operations as soon as possible. They have also reported the attack to law enforcement and have engaged third-party forensic and threat intelligence advisors.

Director of Product Management at DomainTools, Tim Helming, has praised Ardent for their swift and decisive actions in this case. He says shutting down their network the way they did may prevent the ransomware from spreading to more internal systems and reduce the likelihood that sensitive data will be accessed by hackers.

In October, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a federal healthcare cybersecurity toolkit to address “persistent challenges” in this area to help healthcare organizations protect themselves and their patients from cybersecurity threats like these.

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