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George Washington University Hospital recovers from cyberattack that forced operations offline

The IT network and medical record system at GWU Hospital were restored this week and the facility’s online applications are being reconnected, Jane Crawford, a UHS spokeswoman, said in an email. The hospital had its systems taken offline shortly after the cyberattack was detected.

Staff at the hospital relied on offline record-keeping while UHS dealt with the attack that affected some of the system’s clinical and financial operations, officials from the national hospital chain said.

Patients’ electronic medical records were not directly affected by the cyberattack, according to a statement issued Monday. There also was no indication that employee data had been accessed.

Crawford did not immediately respond to a request to comment on reports that the hospital chain was hit by ransomware. But the Associated Press reported that the company’s description of the attack is consistent with the type of malware where data can only be restored with software keys after ransoms are paid.

UHS this week has made “substantial progress toward restoration of online operations” across its U.S.-based hospitals, outpatient clinics and behavioral health centers, according to the statement issued Monday. The cyberattack did not affect UHS’s facilities based in the United Kingdom, officials said in the statement.

Despite the network troubles that affected UHS, staff at the Foggy Bottom hospital were still able to treat patients safely, officials said.

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Major hospital system struggling to recover computer network operations after cyberattack

Universal Health Services, a large hospital system with more than 400 locations across the country, was still working Tuesday to get its network and operations back online after a cyberattack early Sunday morning.



a close up of a sign: A logo sign outside the headquarters of Universal Health Services, Inc., in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania on June 28, 2015. Photo by Kristoffer Tripplaar *** Please Use Credit from Credit Field ***


© Kristoffer Tripplaar/Sipa/AP
A logo sign outside the headquarters of Universal Health Services, Inc., in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania on June 28, 2015. Photo by Kristoffer Tripplaar *** Please Use Credit from Credit Field ***

“We are making steady progress with recovery efforts,” the Pennsylvania-based company said in a statement late Tuesday. “Certain applications have already started coming online again, with others projected to be restored on a rolling basis across the U.S.”

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The company said it “experienced an information technology security incident in the early morning hours of September 27, 2020,” and as a result it was forced to shut down its entire computer network, impacting patient data, laboratory systems and clinical information.

“Patient care continues to be delivered safely and effectively,” the company’s statement noted, adding that at the moment there’s “no evidence that patient or employee data was accessed, copied or misused.”

Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a cardiologist at George Washington University Medical Center, a UHS acute care hospital impacted by the attack, told CNN it may take several days to reset the system.

“They proactively took down all, their entire network, to protect the network when they detected the attack and they’re working using these downtime protocols to maintain clinical operations in a safe way while they slowly bring systems back up online,” he said.

In the meantime, he said it’s a “big deal.”

Reiner said the affected facilities are back to using manual systems, which was once the norm, so patient safety isn’t necessarily a problem at all. “But it’s a big deal. It’s a big deal,” he repeated.

He said he had to cancel several surgical procedures Tuesday and added it’s “much more cumbersome to track down patient data.”

The UHS statement said its facilities are using “established back-up processes including offline documentation methods” — meaning pen and paper.

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Nebraska Medicine to resume appointments, procedures after battling cyberattack | Live Well

That incident, too, began on a weekend. It, too, left doctors and nurses to rely on paper backup systems.

Nebraska Medicine officials said last week that the health system’s emergency rooms have remained open since the outage began early Sept. 20, a Sunday, and no patients had been diverted to other hospitals.

No patients’ electronic medical records were deleted or destroyed, the health system said at the time, thanks to the system’s “back-up and recovery processes.”

But when asked whether patients’ medical or financial information had been exposed, a Nebraska Medicine spokesman said the statement the health system provided contained all the information officials could provide.

Nebraska Medicine’s outage also affected hospitals in North Platte, Norfolk, Hastings and Beatrice for which the health system hosts electronic health records systems.

Electronic records at Great Plains Health in North Platte came back over the weekend and were up and running Tuesday with a few small exceptions, said Megan McGown, a health system spokeswoman.

“It’s a great system,” she said. “We missed it while it was down, and we are very glad it’s back up.”

During the outage, staff with Great Plains, like those within Nebraska Medicine, had to record patient information on paper. Patient care was not impacted, she said, and to her knowledge, the hospital did not have to delay any procedures. No patient information was accessed or stolen.

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Hospital goes offline after apparent cyberattack

A Cleveland-area hospital has spent more than a week offline after being hit by an apparent cyberattack, forcing it to postpone all elective procedures.

The Ashtabula County Medical Center took its computer systems offline last Monday, Sept. 21, CEO Michael Habowski said in a press release Tuesday.

“As a result of this incident, we have postponed all elective procedures through Wednesday, Sept. 30,” Habowski said. “Our emergency department remains open to life-threatening emergencies and walk-in patients, and our outpatient departments and physician offices are continuing to provide care for patients.”

Brett Callow, an analyst at the cybersecurity firm Emsisoft, said that the attack appeared to be ransomware, a type of malicious software that criminal hackers use to encrypt files and shut down computers. The hackers then demand payment to restore the systems.

While ransomware hackers target a number of industries, hospitals have become particularly sensitive, as it can cause interruptions or delays to potentially lifesaving care.

“This certainly has all the hallmarks of a ransomware attack and, if so, Ashtabula County Medical Center would be the 53rd U.S. health care provider or health care system to be impacted by ransomware so far this year,” Callow said.

A number of hospitals have been hit by ransomware this month alone.

Universal Health Services, a nationwide hospital chain, is dealing with a devastating apparent ransomware attack that’s caused outages at all of its facilities. In Germany, authorities are investigating the death of a woman who died after a ransomware attack on the hospital where she was having surgery forced her to relocate to a different facility.

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