On January 31, the Lurie Children’s hospital experienced a significant disruption to its phones, internet, and Epic MyChart patient portal, caused by a cybersecurity attack. This incident underscores the vulnerability of healthcare institutions to cyber threats and the potential impact on patient care and data security.
The Attack and Its Impact
According to reports from various sources, Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago is currently experiencing a network outage due to a cybersecurity attack, affecting phones, email, and internet service. In addition to these services, medical equipment was also impacted, causing disruptions to patient care, including surgeries and appointments. In response to the outage, the hospital quickly established a call center to address non-urgent patient needs.
Reason Behind Increased Attacks on Healthcare Institutions
Healthcare institutions like Lurie Children’s Hospital are often targeted by cybercriminals due to the valuable private data they hold. The number of attacks on Illinois healthcare computers has more than doubled in the past year. The rise in cyber threats against health systems has led to data breaches in the health sector reaching an all-time high last year, impacting as many as 116 million patients. The use of connected medical devices, cloud services, and remote work systems has increased the vulnerability of health organizations to hackers.
Actions Taken in Response to the Attack
In the wake of the attack, Lurie Children’s Hospital took its network offline and is now working with law enforcement, including the FBI, on the investigation. It is not the first time Lurie has been targeted; nearly a year ago, a third-party security breach compromised patient records. This time, however, the hospital is taking more proactive measures, such as establishing a call center to address the needs of patients and community providers, while it works to restore its systems.
The Widespread Threat of Cyberattacks
The threats from cyberattacks are not limited to just hospitals. FBI director Christopher Wray warned Congress that state-sponsored Chinese hackers are targeting U.S. infrastructure, including the power grid. This raises significant concerns about national security and the urgent need for robust measures to prevent and respond to such incidents.
This incident at Lurie Children’s Hospital serves as a stark reminder of the pressing concern of cybersecurity breaches in healthcare and other critical sectors. It underscores the urgent need for robust security measures and rapid response strategies to protect against and mitigate the impact of such attacks. As the threat landscape continues to evolve, it is imperative for healthcare institutions and other organizations holding sensitive data to stay ahead of potential cyber threats and ensure the safety and security of their systems and the valuable data they hold.