Hollywood Presbyeterian Medical Center informed law enforcement and computer experts immediately after staff noticed network problems on Feb. 5 and it quickly became clear that their network was having malware problems.
Hospital CEO Allen Stefanek stated that although the hack did not affect patient care and no patient data was compromised, the hospital chose to pay the ransom of 40 bitcoins (worth roughly $16,664) as it was “the quickest and most efficient way” to solve the problem.
Hacking attacks where hackers hold devices or data “hostage” in exchange for ransom, also known as “ransomware,” are becoming increasingly frequent, and large institutions like hospitals are common targets. Although computer security experts usually advise victims not to pay the ransom, law enforcement agencies sometimes recommend it.
In 2013, ransomware attacks increased from 100,000 a month in January to 600,000 in December, and their number is expected to continue to rise in 2016 as hackers develop more sophisticated hacking tools. According to estimates released by Intel Corp.’s McAffe Labs, at least, 3 percent of victims pay hackers for the decryption key.
It is not obvious how many of these victims are companies because many companies do not tell anyone that they have been hacked, especially if they have paid off criminals. The number of victims who pay might be much higher than the estimate.
FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller stated that the agency is investigating the attack but refused to confirm whether they have any suspects. Hackers often ask for ransoms to be paid in bitcoin, an online currency which can be difficult to track, so it might prove difficult to find out who was behind the attack. Meanwhile, the hospital CEO has stated that the network is currently fully operational and that everything is back to normal in the hospital.
Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center is based in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles. Founded in 1924, it was sold to CHA Medical Center in South Korea, and it currently has a capacity of 434 beds. The hospital offers emergency care, maternity services, cancer care, physical therapy, as well as specialized operations such as fetal and orthopedic surgeries.