Hospital in chaos after ransomware attack
A Japanese medical facility placed the acceptance of new patients on hold after a cyber intrusion
The municipal Handa Hospital in the small town of Tsurugi in western Japan was hit by a ransomware attack at the end of October.
The Mainichi Shimbun newspaper reported at the time that one day, many of the hospital’s printers suddenly began ejecting paper with a message in English saying the electronic records of around 85,000 patients had been stolen and encrypted. The hackers threatened to leak the records unless a ransom was not paid.
Handa refused to pay and claimed the compromised records had not been made public.
The hospital’s day-to-day services were, nevertheless, immediately paralyzed because there was no way to calculate medical fees.
Furthermore, since no hardcopies of the records had been kept, doctors could not check basic patient data, such as name and age, as well as the treatments individual patients had undergone and what medicine they had been given.
The staff had to temporarily return to keeping paper-based records and stopped accepting new patients for two months until January 4, when the normal operations were restored. “Every day was hectic, as if we were on a battlefield,” Toshiya Maruzasa, the hospital’s head of administration, told the Japan Times on Monday.
Yasushi Suto, the head physician at the hospital, told the paper that from now on, patient data should be recorded “not only electronically but also on paper.”
Ransomware attacks have become increasingly common around the world, with criminals targeting large and small companies, entities, and government institutions.
The Colonial Pipeline Company, which operates the largest oil pipeline system in the US, and Brazilian meat processing giant JBS were among businesses that paid ransoms last year to have their operations unblocked.
In Colonial’s case, most of the money was later recovered by law enforcement.