Friday was anything but a normal day at the Ann & Robert Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
Patients were still being treated, but the entire facility was making do without phones, email and computer services as a result of what officials called “cybersecurity matter.”
“We are taking this very seriously, are investigating with the support of leading experts, and are working in collaboration with law enforcement agencies. As part of our response to this matter, we have taken network systems offline,” the hospital said in a statement Thursday night.
Lurie is establishing a call center, the statement said, to serve the needs of its patients and the community.
Sources at the FBI say that the agency is aware of a cybersecurity issue affecting Lurie Children’s Hospital, and is providing assistance.
Hospitals have become a favorite target of hackers according to cybersecurity experts.
A recent study by Checkpoint Security found that hospitals are third behind education or research systems and government or military systems in the number of attacks launched each week. Hackers are targeting hospitals because they will pay, said Pete Nicoletti of Checkpoint.
“There is usually a huge incentive for them to act quickly and work towards paying a ransom,” said John Bromfield of Vistrada Consulting Services. “When lives are in the balance, they have to act quickly,” he said.
Hospitals are targeted bot only because they pay ransom, Nicoletti said, but because their data is valuable to hackers on the dark web. Patient data can be sold to hackers, who could then stage their own phishing attacks using what appears to be legitimate bilking data from the hospital.
Experts say they are numerous ways hackers can exploit hospital systems, but they are most often targeted by malicious emails. They can also take advantage of connected devices like MRI scanners and heart monitors that don’t have sufficient protections.
Nicoletti said almost every hospital keeps a backup of its data, but recoveries can be a lengthy process.
“I like to say that a lot of hospitals are using floppy drives to do back up and then sending it to a stagecoach to a cave somewhere because it takes days and weeks to do recovery,” he said.
As of Friday afternoon, the luriechildrens.org website was still down. “This website is using a security service to protect itself from online attacks,” a statement on the page said.