Cyberattack affected NJ hospital for days — and it wasn’t the only one
FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP — A cybersecurity concern at CentraState Medical Center may have been part of an attack on several medical facilities worldwide.
Hospital spokeswoman Lori Palmer on Friday said the hospital was having an "IT security issue" that was under investigation. Both the issue and the investigation continued Wednesday. She did not disclose additional details about what caused the issue.
CentraState CEO Tom Scott told NBC 4 New York that "irregularities" were detected in the hospital's computer systems, which shut down. Paper forms that had been stored for emergency use were pressed into service to take patient information. Scott said some patient records were still accessible but administrative staffing was increased.
🌐 Worldwide attacks on hospitals
The cybersecurity professional journal SC Media reported that Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Barbados were also affected by "cybersecurity issues" in the past few weeks.
The Toronto hospital was hit by a group called Lockbit before Christmas. The ransomware group apologized after the attack and offered a free decryptor to fix the problem, according to the SC Media report. Officials are deciding whether or not to use their solution.
Palmer on Wednesday morning would not comment about the SC Media report. The other attacks had not been linked to CentraState's issues as of Wednesday morning.
⛑️ Patient care continues at CentraState
CentraState on its website said it is receiving patients through its emergency department after being on divert. Those scheduled for inpatient procedures are also being treated. The hospital Tuesday announced specific impacts of the issue on its services including:
- Outpatient radiology: Walk-ins cannot be accommodated at this time. Contact partner Princeton Radiology at 609-921-8211 for additional information.
- Mammography: Patients whose mammograms were canceled will be contacted to reschedule
- Radiation Treatment: Follow-up appointments can be scheduled by calling the department number.
- CentraState Labs: Freehold location is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. with no appointment necessary.
It's not clear how CentraState is investigating the issue.
A spokesman for the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office Wednesday said it was not involved. The FBI's Newark office told New Jersey 101.5 is aware of the issue at CentraState but did not disclose its specific involvement.
The state Department of Health confirmed it was notified by CentraState when the problem first started but has no additional comment.
💻 Hospitals warned about cyberattacks
The American Hospital Association before Christmas told its members about warnings from the FBI, National Security Agency and other groups about ransomware and other cyber threats targeting health care systems.
John Riggi, AHA national advisor for cybersecurity and risk, said "foreign cyber gangs and spies" were testing the resiliency of hospitals especially as hospitals again fill up because of the "tripledemic" and increased cases of RSV, flu and COVID-19 cases.
“Our cyber adversaries believe we may pause for the holidays, which may result in their increased targeting of hospitals and health systems as we have seen around past holidays,” Riggi said in a statement. “But our hospitals never close and our network defenders never cease their vigilance.
Dan Alexander is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at email@example.com
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