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Major hospitals hit in potentially largest cyberattack in U.S. history: report

Cyberattacks. (medithIT/Flickr)

A major U.S. hospital system was hit with a cyberattack, one of the largest attacks on medical data in history, according to a report.

The computer systems for Universal Health Services failed over the weekend and have resulted in some locations filing patient information with pen and paper, according to NBC News.

Universal Health Services has more than 400 locations, mostly in the U.S., and treats millions of patients a year. The company operates in the United Kingdom, too.

The company said it was dealing with “an IT security issue” but reports indicate the hospital chain is experiencing a ransomeware situation with hackers demanding payment before removing malicious software and decrypting files.

“We implement extensive IT security protocols and are working diligently with our IT security partners to restore IT operations as quickly as possible. In the meantime, our facilities are using their established back-up processes including offline documentation methods. Patient care continues to be delivered safely and effectively,” the statement said.

“No patient or employee data appears to have been accessed, copied or otherwise compromised,” it added.

A nurse who works at a Universal Health Services location in South Dakota told NBC that the computers slowed down and then eventually went off entirely early Sunday morning, leading staff to turn to pen and paper.

Another nurse in Arizona reported similar phenomena as well as the medication system getting knocked out.

Facilities in California and Florida were also affected, according to Tech Crunch.

“Everyone was told to turn off all the computers and not to turn them on again,” a source told TC. “We were told it will be days before the computers are up again.”

Ransomware attacks are especially dangerous for medical facilities since life-saving data is kept with modern information technology systems.

Last week, German police launched a homicide investigation after a woman died after she was transferred to another hospital following a ransomware attack. It’s believed to be the first death caused by a hack.


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