A cyberattack has disrupted hospital computer systems across the United States, forcing emergency rooms in several states to close on Thursday and ambulances to be diverted.
Many primary care services remained closed on Friday as security experts worked to determine the extent of the problem and resolve it.
The “data security incident” began Thursday at facilities operated by Prospect Medical Holdings, which is based in California and has hospitals and clinics there and in Texas, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania.
“Upon learning of this, we took our systems offline to protect them and launched an investigation with the help of third-party cybersecurity specialists,” the company said in a statement. “While our investigation continues, we are focused on addressing the pressing needs of our patients as we work diligently to return to normal operations as quickly as possible.”
Cyber attacks and data hacking have been on the rise globally in recent years. In the US, such attacks have compromised the security of universities, public school systems, hospitals, local governments and federal agencies.
In most ransomware attacks, cybercriminals seek out vulnerabilities in security systems to gain access to data like personal information. They then hold that data hostage, often threatening to make it public or otherwise releasing it unless they are paid a ransom by a certain deadline.
In June, several US agencies, including the Department of Energy, were hit in a hacking spree by Russian cybercriminals that affected private companies and public institutions, according to the top US cybersecurity agency.
Experts say there’s already been $450m in ransomware payments globally in the just the first half of 2023, a marked increase from 2022 when payments are estimated to be less than $500m for the entire year.
The hack on Thursday caused chaos in medical facilities in several states. In Connecticut, the emergency departments at Manchester Memorial and Rockville General hospital were closed for much of Thursday and patients were diverted to other nearby medical centers.
The FBI in Connecticut said it was with “law enforcement partners and the victim entities” but could not comment further on an ongoing investigation.
Elective surgeries, outpatient appointments, blood drives and other services were suspended, and while the emergency departments reopened late Thursday, many primary care services remained closed on Friday, according to the Eastern Connecticut Health Network, which runs the facilities. Patients were being contacted individually, according to the network’s website.