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 Cyberattacks Against US Hospitals are Growing Rapidly

Hackers view healthcare organizations as prime targets.
Ransomware has emerged as one of the most challenging issues in cybersecurity and a threat to industries worldwide. With ransomware, hackers extort businesses and organizations by breaking into and frequently holding computers and files hostage. However, it can have a particularly negative impact on patient care when it affects hospital networks and cascades across the nation. 

According to The Des Moines Register, ransomware hackers targeted MercyOne in the first few days of October as part of a more significant attack that resulted in hospital-wide outages at many other health systems. It was unclear how many of the 140 hospitals under the management of CommonSpirit Health, a nonprofit healthcare organization with headquarters in Chicago, were impacted, and the organization declined to disclose the number.

Since having the tonsils removed, Kelley Parsi brought her 3-year-old son to a hospital in Des Moines, Iowa, where she anticipated that the staff would treat his pain and dehydration and then send him home. She claimed that instead, the excursion turned into one of her most terrifying days ever.

She was told by the resident doctor that he had accidentally given him five times what was prescribed, due to the computer system that automatically calculated medication doses not functioning. Later, she found out that part of the hospital's digital equipment had been disabled by a cyberattack. While her son's body digested the overdose, she waited several hours in fear.

In addition, CommonSpirit, which operates more than 140 hospitals in the United States, opted not to disclose the number of its locations experiencing delays. However, a number of hospitals have reported being impacted, including Virginia Mason Franciscan Health in Seattle, certain St. Luke's hospitals in Texas, and CHI Memorial Hospital in Tennessee.

According to Brett Callow, an expert at the cybersecurity company Emsisoft, ransomware has been used to hack into 19 major hospital chains in the United States this year.

Due to patient confidentiality, MercyOne, Parsi's hospital, declined to comment on her condition. "It was dedicated to delivering safe, high-quality treatment for all patients we serve in their time of need," a representative said in a statement.

The U.S. government lists health care as one of 16 important infrastructure sectors. Hackers view healthcare organizations as prime targets.

However, a significant assessment by the government Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and a poll of healthcare IT experts concluded that a ransomware attack on a hospital puts more strain on its capabilities generally and raises death rates there.

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