New York Health Network Restores Services Following Cyberattack
In recent news, the Westchester Medical Center Health Network in New York successfully restored its online systems after a week of disruptions caused by a crippling cyberattack. This incident once again emphasizes the critical need for robust cybersecurity measures to protect healthcare institutions and their patients.
The Cyberattack On October 16, Westchester Medical Center Health Network reported a potential cybersecurity threat and a subsequent IT system outage at HealthAlliance Hospital, Margaretville Hospital, and Mountainside Residential Care Center. The severity of the situation prompted the network to divert ambulances away from these facilities for the duration of the week, causing concerns among community members and local residents.
Response and Recovery
While the network faced backlash for not initially providing detailed information about the incident, they took decisive action to address the issue. By shutting down all connected IT systems at the affected facilities and seeking assistance from third-party security experts, the hospital system was able to regain control and begin the process of restoring its IT infrastructure.
As of Saturday evening, all three facilities are fully operational and have resumed admitting patients. HealthAlliance Hospital and Margaretville Hospital remained open throughout the diversion, ensuring that walk-in patients continued to receive necessary care. Local emergency medical service (EMS) operators have been instructed to resume transporting emergency patients to these hospitals.
Public Outcry and Investigation
During this ordeal, Westchester Medical Center Health Network faced criticisms from local residents and prominent community members who reported issues related to patient care. Ambulances were indeed diverted from October 14 to October 17, which raised concerns about the network’s initial response to the situation.
The network, acknowledging the seriousness of the incident, promptly notified the FBI, the New York State Department of Health, and officials in Ulster and Delaware Counties. An ongoing investigation is being led by a third-party security firm to determine the extent and origin of the cyberattack.
A Growing Trend
This incident follows a distressing trend of cyberattacks targeting healthcare facilities across the United States. Notably, two hospitals in upstate New York, Carthage Area Hospital and Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center, experienced weeks of disruptions due to a ransomware attack. Sixteen hospitals run by Prospect Medical Holdings were similarly affected in August, and a large healthcare system in Michigan recently confirmed a ransomware attack.
Ransomware's Deadly Consequences
A recent study by University of Minnesota health economist Hannah Neprash revealed alarming statistics – patients admitted to hospitals during ransomware attacks saw in-hospital mortality rates increase by 20% to 35%. This underscores the life-threatening consequences of cyberattacks on healthcare institutions.