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Hospitals at the center of a recent wave of cyberattacks

Published: Aug. 19, 2021 at 10:57 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Health care facilities have become the newest target in a wave of cyberattacks, according to a recent study. This comes as a record amount of COVID cases continue to put a strain on hospitals in Louisiana, and across the country.

Jenifer Ray is the Director of Applications and Informatics at Baton Rouge General. She says a ransomware attack could pose potential life-threatening consequences.

“Any disruption in the ability for us to take care of our patients during this very critical time can be life or death,” Ray said.

Ray says an attack could force doctors to put off surgeries, delay medical care, and cost a hospital millions of dollars.

That’s why Ray and other experts stressed the importance of having a plan in place.

“It’s sort of like having a hurricane evacuation plan. These are all the things we do in South Louisiana to prepare for a hurricane, and it’s the same thing you need to do to prepare for a ransomware attack and hope it doesn’t happen,” Jeff Hanson, CEO of Trust I.T. said.

A plan can look a lot of different ways. This can include having backups, two-step verifications, and a human firewall.

“How do you restore? How do you get your staff moving forward? If you’re a hospital, how do you continue to deliver services? It’s the same in a hurricane environment. You can never say you’ll never get hit by a hurricane or that you can prevent it because you can’t. It’s the same thing with ransomware, you want to do absolutely everything you can to prevent it, but you need to have a game plan to move forward,” Hanson said.

But what does an attack on a hospital look like? Hanson says recent studies show that hackers will infiltrate a network and wait between 60 to 90 days to attack. It can start off with something as simple as an email, a phone call, or even someone’s social media.

“Even of late we’re having to educate our users about their social media profiles. If you’re using a picture across Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram, and it’s your first name and last name, they already know who you are and they’re trying to get in through those mechanisms,” Ray said.

That’s why Ray says the entire hospital staff must go through the necessary training so they can recognize and point out a potential threat.

“Nobody is ever safe. We take that approach every day. You’re aware and you have to stay on your toes to make sure you’re not becoming a victim,” Ray said.

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