The Desert IndependentTM

Serving Blythe and the Desert Regions of the Southwest Since 2001

 ,

Information Sought on Growing Threat of Ransomware Attacks

Recent Hits on Hospitals, Hackers Lock Critical Computer Systems and Demand Payment of High Ransoms


April 13, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC On April 8, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) sent a letter to FBI Director James Comey expressing "grave concerns about the recent ransomware attacks on hospitals in California and across the United States."

Ransomware is a type of computer virus that holds a victim's files hostage, often with hackers demanding payment of high ransoms to provide a key that can unlock the information.

This letter comes a week after a ransomware virus locked critical computer systems at the 10 hospitals operated by MedStar Health in Washington, D.C., and the Alvarado Hospital Medical Center in San Diego, California.

In February, the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center was attacked with ransomware and ended up paying a ransom of nearly $17,000 to regain access to their systems. The attack forced the hospital to divert critical 911 patients to other medical centers and to administer care without access to the important information contained in electronic medical records.

"I am concerned that by hospitals paying these ransoms, we are creating a perverse incentive for hackers to continue these dangerous attacks," the Senator continued.

In the letter, Boxer requests information regarding the FBI's efforts to investigate these crimes and steps that hospitals and other businesses can take to protect themselves prior to and following a ransomware attack.

In February, Boxer sent a letter to the five largest medical device manufacturers expressing concerns about vulnerable medical devices that could be manipulated by hackers to cause patient harm or even death.

The full text of the letter follows:

April 8, 2016

The Honorable James Comey
Director
Federal Bureau of Investigation
601 4th Street NW
Washington, DC 20535

I am writing today to express grave concerns about the recent ransomware attacks on hospitals in California and across the United States. Just last week, a ransomware virus locked critical computer systems at the 10 hospitals operated by MedStar Health in Washington, D.C., and days later, hackers targeted the Alvarado Hospital Medical Center in San Diego, California.

As you know, ransomware is a type of computer virus that holds a victim's files hostage, often with hackers demanding payment of high ransoms to provide a key that can unlock the information. In February, the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center was attacked with ransomware and ended up paying a ransom of nearly $17,000 to regain access to their systems. The attack forced the hospital to divert critical 911 patients to other medical centers and to administer care without access to the important information contained in electronic medical records.

I am concerned that by hospitals paying these ransoms, we are creating a perverse incentive for hackers to continue these dangerous attacks. In your response to this letter, please provide information regarding the FBI's efforts to investigate these crimes and indicate what steps you believe hospitals and other businesses can take to protect themselves both prior to and following a ransomware attack.

Thank you so much for your critical work on this issue.

Sincerely,

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator



Please read The Desert Independent's Comments Policy before responding.



Contact Us    Advertising    Terms    Comments Policy    Submit an Article    Have a News Idea?

Copyright 2008-2018 All Rights Reserved, The Desert Independent, LLC