A malicious computer virus that has devastated a number of businesses across the world has disrupted operations in recent days at FirstHealth of the Carolinas and a number of physician offices across the Sandhills.
The malicious virus was detected in the organization’s computer network at noon on Tuesday, and the system remained offline while it was cleaned of the threat.
The malware was identified as a new form of âWannaCryâ, a ransomware virus that initially hit businesses around the world in May.
“The FirstHealth computer network experienced an ‘downtime event’ which began on Tuesday, October 17 at 2:15 p.m. due to a threat from a malicious virus,” said Emily Sloan, deputy director of public relations for FirstHealth in a prepared statement. âThe FirstHealth information system team immediately identified the threat and implemented security protocols, including shutting down the information system network. At that point, staff initiated standard downtime procedures. “
FirstHealth security analysts first identified the virus on a non-clinical device, and it quickly spread to other network devices in the same work areas. The virus’s unusual activity was immediately spotted and the network was dismantled.
Sloan said the information system team is still analyzing details on the exact point of entry and the method by which the virus was transmitted.
“As a precaution, FirstHealth remains down, as the information system team validates that all systems and devices have been tested and cleared of any threat,” she added.
FirstHealth has over 4,000 devices and over 100 physical locations connected to its network. Each should be carefully checked to make sure there is no risk of viruses.
âDue to the rapid response from the information system security team, the virus did not reach any patient information, operational information or database,â Sloan said. âPatient information has not been compromised. At present, it seems that no damage has been done to the network or devices.
The attack was not related to the new Epic computer system, but access to Epic, like all other systems, was blocked in order to prevent the virus from affecting that system. The FirstHealth MyChart online program is accessible to patients; however, the information has not been updated since the downtime event.
In recent days, several health professionals and offices have reported problems obtaining records, managing patient appointments and handling the normal flow of information on computer networks.
âWe are experiencing delays and cancellations of appointments due to the unavailability event. This does not apply to critical and emerging needs, âSloan said. “We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this has caused. Our team is working tirelessly to remedy the virus and get our system back up and running to be fully operational.”
WannaCry spreads across computer networks by exploiting critical vulnerabilities in Windows computers.
Less than a day after its first appearance in May, it has infected more than 230,000 computers in more than 150 countries. The cyberattack – which has since been blamed on North Korea, a country that employs more than 6,000 hackers – temporarily locked down the UK’s National Health Service network, among thousands of other victims. In June, a new version of WannaCry again wreaked havoc, spreading from Ukraine across the world, hitting companies including Danish shipping giant Maersk.
Marcus Hutchins, a British web researcher, foiled the original WannaCry virus by discovering a ‘kill switch’, but it should be noted that Hutchins himself was accused, in August 2017, of allegedly creating a banking virus. malicious known as Kronos.
The attacks on hospital computer systems seem particularly cruel, a point argued even in the murky game of morality between the hackers themselves. But FirstHealth’s dilemma is one in a long list of troubling attacks on the industry. A recent report from the Annals of Internal Medicine found nearly 2,000 hospital data breaches of various kinds between 2009 and 2016.
The Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center was the first healthcare provider to be hit by a ransomware claim last year and reportedly paid around $ 17,000 to back up their data. In the months that followed, this type of malware proliferated. Some have called 2016 the âyear of ransomware,â with attacks up 6,000%.
And although the original WannaCry attack was linked to North Korea, software giant Microsoft has also come under criticism as the virus is spread through older versions of its Windows programs.
âI cannot stress enough how quickly our information systems security team identified the threat and shut down our network while protecting our servers and databases,â said David Dillehunt, Chief Information Officer for FirstHealth of the Carolinas. âAll industries face nefarious forces trying to hack into computer networks, so this is nothing new. I am just very proud of the reaction of our team and the work they are doing to ensure that the virus is totally removed before restoring all network connectivity. “
FirstHealth of the Carolina has deployed a specially developed antivirus patch for the virus which will be implemented throughout the FirstHealth system. Additionally, the fix will also be added to antivirus software available for others in the industry to apply to their systems.
The network will be fully restored once we have carefully analyzed and implemented the antivirus patch on all devices in the FirstHealth system.
âWhile we have determined that there is no evidence of data breach or unauthorized access to date, we want to ensure that the network is set up deliberately and gradually,â Dillehunt said.
Updates on FirstHealth’s progress will be available on the organization’s website and social media pages.