The Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, a hospital in Hollywood, has found itself in an unfortunate situation. A hacker is demanding 9,000 bitcoins to remove ransomeware that is holding the hospital’s computers hostage, with the hospital’s CEO saying the situation is an “internal emergency.” The issue has been ongoing for about a week, and is preventing hospital staff from accessing essential data like patient files and test results.
The issue came to light after the hospital’s President and CEO Allen Stefanek disclosed details to NBC Los Angeles. He stated the hospital’s computer network is suffering “significant IT issues” which cropped up on Friday, February 5. The issue is ransomeware, according to an anonymous doctor speaking to NBC; everyday activities are being impacted as a result, and the hospital is being forced to turn away new patients.
The hospital staff does not have access to its email, forcing them to use fax machines to communicate between departments. Doctors don’t have access to patient information, including things like past medical records, records for patients who were newly admitted, and medical test results like CT scans and X-Rays.
This has resulted in some outpatients missing their treatments, according to the anonymous source, and new patients being transferred to other hospitals instead. As well, this unnamed individual said he or she had been informed there was a 9,000 bitcoin ransom demand, and if it is paid, the hackers will allegedly provide keys for unlocking the ransomed computers.
Fortunately, word has it no patient information was compromised as a result of the ransom, and there doesn’t appear to be any intent to get private data. Why that particular hospital was targeted isn’t known — it may have simply been one open to a cyberattack — but the hackers are looking for a big payout, and how long the hospital may hold out isn’t clear.
The FBI, LAPD, and some cyber forensics team are all investigating the matter. This isn’t the first hospital targeted by attackers, of course, but in past instances the attacks generally focused on grabbing personal data seemingly for identity theft reasons.
A single bitcoin is currently worth about $397.07 USD, making the ransom demand worth about $3,573,630 USD.
At this time, it appears the hospital has a full computer shutdown order in place, forbidding machines to be turned on. Whether the hospital plans to pay the ransom if a solution cannot be found hasn't been stated at this time.