Home Cybersecurity Virus infects MedStar Health system’s computers, hospital officials say

Virus infects MedStar Health system’s computers, hospital officials say

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A virus infected the computer system of MedStar Health on Monday, forcing one of the Washington region’s largest health care providers to shut down significant portions of its online operations.

Hospital officials acknowledged the breach, which is being investigated by the FBI, but said they had “no evidence that information has been stolen.”

“MedStar acted quickly with a decision to take down all system interfaces to prevent the virus from spreading throughout the organization,” spokeswoman Ann Nickels said in a statement. “We are working with our IT and cyber-security partners to fully assess and address the situation. Currently, all of our clinical facilities remain open and functioning.”

The $5 billion health-care system operates 10 hospitals and more than 250 outpatient facilities in the Washington region. It serves hundreds of thousands of patients and employs more than 30,000 people.

Hospital staff reported that they were unable to access email or a vast database of patient records.

One employee told The Post that the entire Medstar computer system is inaccessible.

“Even the lowest level staff can’t communicate with anyone. You can’t schedule patients, you can’t access records, you can’t do anything,” said the woman, who asked that her name not be used because she wasn’t authorized to speak about the incident.

Employees, she added, are using paper charts to continue seeing patients.

The MedStar infection follows two recent cyber attacks against hospitals. In both cases, hackers deployed “ransomware” — a virus that holds systems hostage until victims pay for a key to regain access.

Last month, a hospital in Los Angeles paid hackers $17,000 in bitcoins, an internet currency, to free its system. Two weeks ago, a Kentucky facility announced it was in an “internal state of emergency” after a similar attack.

Though the nature of MedStar infection remains unclear, Nickels said she had “not been told that it’s a ransom situation.”

john.cox@washpost.com

 

This article was written by John Woodrow Cox;Karen Turner from The Washington Post and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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