CHICAGO– A large children’s hospital in Chicago remains affected by a cyberattack that began more than a week ago, which prevented doctors and nurses from accessing patients’ digital records and limited parents’ ability to communicate with their children’s caregivers.
Lurie Children’s Hospital officials said Thursday that they are still working with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, but told reporters that a “known criminal threat actor” had accessed the hospital’s network.
The hospital shut down its own phone, email and medical records systems once the breach was discovered on Jan. 31, officials said.
“We take this matter very seriously and have been working closely around the clock with external and internal experts and in collaboration with authorities, including the FBI,” said Dr. Marcelo Malakooti, Lurie’s chief medical officer. “This is an active and ongoing investigation.”
The situation at Lurie Children’s Hospital had all the hallmarks of a ransomware attack, although hospital officials have neither confirmed nor denied the cause. These types of extortion attacks are popular among ransomware gangs who seek to make financial gains by locking data, logs, or other critical information and then demanding money to be returned to the owner.
Allan Liska, an analyst at cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, said victims are often advised not to name specific criminal groups, but said the description Lurie officials provided Thursday suggests it is an operation well known to criminals. American authorities.
“While we all know that most hospitals, with a few exceptions, do not have the extra money to pay a large ransom, they are much more aggressive than before when pursuing health care providers,” Liska said of the ransomware gangs’ strategies.
An FBI representative in Chicago did not provide further information about the hospital’s comments, referring The Associated Press to a statement issued Wednesday confirming an ongoing investigation.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services warned in a report last year that health care providers have increasingly been targeted by criminals, leading to delays or disruptions in patient care across the country. country.
But schools, courts, public services and government agencies have been left exposed.
Lurie has directed patients to use a call center and said it can help people fill prescriptions, discuss appointments and communicate with health care providers.
“We recognize the frustration and concern the situation creates for all those affected,” Malakooti said Thursday. “We are very grateful to this community for the outpouring of support and are especially inspired by our workforce and their resilience in their commitment to our mission.”
But some parents have reported that the center is not meeting their needs, leaving families unsure when they will be able to get answers.
Brett Callow, a threat analyst at cybersecurity firm Emsisoft, said it can take weeks for a hospital to restore normal operations after a cyberattack, prioritizing critical systems first.
Lurie Children’s latest annual report says staff treated about 260,000 patients last year. Chicago-area pediatrician offices that work with the hospital also reported being unable to access digital medical records because of the attack.