California Hospital Pays Ransom to Get Access to Their Records

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On February 5, workers at the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center discovered that their electronic communications were not working. They had become the latest victims of a type of virus known as Ransomware. Ransomware encrypts all of your files and without paying the hackers for the decryption key the files become useless to you. The CEO of Hollywood Presbyterian, in an interview with NBC was quick to note that patient privacy has not been compromised.

The hospital paid the hackers a sum of 400 bitcoins (an online digital currency) which is about $17,000. CEO Allen Stefanek in a statement about the incident, said, "The quickest and most efficient way to restore our systems and administrative functions was to pay the ransom and obtain the decryption key. In the best interest of restoring normal operations, we did this."

Symantec, a key computer security firm, recently quantified the total amount of ransom paid out per year to hackers in the millions of dollars. Hackers have been embracing this type of virus more in recent months, and there is a fear that now that the hackers know that medical facilities will pay the ransom, more medical facilities will be targeted, especially those who may not be tech-savvy.

It is important in this connected world for businesses, especially those with sensitive data to be sure that they have the proper equipment in place to combat those who would do harm to their data. Having modern systems and prevention software loaded and being sure all are configured correctly and kept up to date is essential.

During 2013, the number of attacks each month rose from 100,000 in January to 600,000 in December, according to a 2014 report by Symantec, the maker of antivirus software. A report from McAfee Labs, Intel’s security software grow, released in November said the number of ransomware attacks is expected to grow even more in 2016 because of increased sophistication in the software used to do it.

Bitcoin, the online currency that is hard to trace, is becoming the preferred way for hackers collect a ransom, said FBI Special Agent Thomas Grasso, who is part of the government's efforts to fight malicious software including ransomware, last year.