Building wave of ransomware attacks strike U.S. hospitals

By Christopher Bing and Joseph Menn

WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Eastern European criminals are targeting dozens of U.S. hospitals with ransomware, and federal officials on Wednesday urged healthcare facilities to beef up preparations rapidly in case they are next.

The FBI is investigating the recent attacks, which include incidents in Oregon, California and New York made public just this week, according to three cybersecurity consultants familiar with the matter.

A doctor at one hospital told Reuters that the facility was functioning on paper after an attack and unable to transfer patients because the nearest alternative was an hour away. The doctor declined to be named because staff were not authorized to speak with reporters.

“We can still watch vitals and getting imaging done, but all results are being communicated via paper only,” the doctor said. Staff could see historic records but not update those files.

Experts said the likely group behind the attacks was known as Wizard Spider or UNC 1878. They warned that such attacks can disrupt hospital operations and lead to loss of life.

The attacks prompted a teleconference call on Wednesday led by FBI and Homeland Security officials for hospital administrators and cybersecurity experts.

A participant told Reuters that government officials warned hospitals to make sure their backup systems were in order, disconnect systems from the internet where possible, and avoid using personal email accounts.

The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“This appears to have been a coordinated attack designed to disrupt hospitals specifically all around the country,” said Allan Liska, a threat intelligence analyst with U.S. cybersecurity firm Recorded Future.

“While multiple ransomware attacks against healthcare providers each week have been commonplace, this is the first time we have seen six hospitals targeted in the same day by the same ransomware actor.”

In the past, ransomware infections at hospitals have downed patient record-keeping databases, which critically store up-to-date medical information, affecting hospitals’ ability to provide healthcare.

Ransomware attacks have jumped 50% over the past three months, security firm Check Point said Wednesday, with the proportion of polled healthcare organizations impacted jumping to 4% in the third quarter from 2.3% in the previous quarter.

Two of the three consultants familiar with the attacks said the cyber criminals were commonly using a type of ransomware known as “Ryuk,” which locks up a victim’s computer until a payment is received.

The teleconference call participant said government officials disclosed that the attackers used Ryuk and another trojan, known as Trickbot, against the hospitals.

“UNC1878 is one of the most brazen, heartless, and disruptive threat actors I’ve observed over my career,” said Charles Carmakal, senior vice president for U.S. cyber incident response firm Mandiant.

“Multiple hospitals have already been significantly impacted by Ryuk ransomware and their networks have been taken offline.”

Experts say the deployment of Trickbot is significant after efforts by Microsoft <MSFT.O> to disrupt the hacking network earlier this month.

That initiative was designed to handicap the cyber criminals, but they seem

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Workers at 11 Tenet Healthcare Hospitals Across California Overwhelmingly Vote to Strike, Calling for Contract to Address Pandemic Safety

SEIU: Workers at 11 Tenet Healthcare Hospitals Across California Overwhelmingly Vote to Strike, Calling for Contract to Address Pandemic Safety

PR Newswire

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 27, 2020

Employees Want to Work with Tenet on a Contract that Ensures PPE, Staffing, and Clear Safety Protocols

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 27, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Workers at 11 Tenet Healthcare hospitals in California have voted overwhelmingly to go on strike to demand that the giant hospital chain bargain in good faith with employees over health, safety, and other working conditions in their facilities, as caregivers continue to risk their lives caring for patients with COVID-19.

The strike vote covers 4,300 workers at the 11 facilities who are members of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West. The vote margin was 96 percent in favor of the strike.

Tenet has rejected most of the workers’ proposals on pandemic safety. Workers are asking Tenet to go beyond the minimal federal guidelines to make sure the most comprehensive protections are in place.

“We are scared to come to work knowing we are at great risk of exposure to COVID-19,” said Gisella Thomas, a respiratory therapist at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs. “We want to work with management at our hospitals to increase protections for our health, our patients’ health, our families’ health, and the health of our communities. We have put forth a pandemic safety proposal that addresses issues workers are concerned about, like staffing, PPE, and increased COVID-19 testing for employees.” 

Tenet has made more than $1 billion in profits in the first three quarters of 2020 and received more than $250 million in taxpayer bailout money in California alone. Tenet’s Chief Executive Officer Ron Rittenmeyer was paid more than $24 million in 2019, and the chain’s president and chief operating officer Saum Sutaria was paid nearly $14 million.

“We are calling on Tenet to increase its investment in worker safety and staffing in the middle of the worst pandemic in over a century – to ensure the safety of healthcare workers, our patients, and our entire communities.”

The strike will occur at the following Tenet hospitals in California:

INDIO: John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital
JOSHUA TREE: High Desert Medical Center
LAKEWOOD: Lakewood Regional Medical Center
LOS ALAMITOS: Los Alamitos Medical Center
MANTECA: Doctors Hospital of Manteca
MODESTO: Doctors Medical Center
PALM SPRINGS: Desert Regional Medical Center
SAN LUIS OBISPO: Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center
SAN RAMON: San Ramon Regional Medical Center
TEMPLETON: Twin Cities Community Hospital
TURLOCK: Emanuel Medical Center

SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) is one of the largest unions of hospital workers in the United States, with 97,000 members. Learn more at www.seiu-uhw.org.

 

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SOURCE SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West

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