Nov 28, 2023 - Technology

Ransomware hits emergency rooms across U.S.

Illustration of a red cross floating in water in a downpour

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Several hospitals across the country are diverting ambulances from their emergency rooms and rescheduling operations following a ransomware attack.

Driving the news: Ardent Health Services, which operates 30 hospitals across six states, said in a statement Monday that a ransomware attack had led it to proactively take its networks offline on Thanksgiving.

Why it matters: It remains unclear when the affected hospitals will be able to return to normal operations.

  • For now, Ardent Health said in its statement that while patients continue to get safe and effective care, its facilities are "rescheduling some non-emergent, elective procedures and diverting some emergency room patients to other area hospitals until systems are back online."

The big picture: Hospitals and health care organizations have faced a deluge of ransomware attacks this year.

  • Hackers typically see these organizations as a prime target because hospitals are likely to pay a ransom to keep critical health services running and hospital networks contain a wealth of sensitive patient information.

By the numbers: So far this year, at least 128 hospitals have suffered from ransomware attacks, according to Emsisoft threat analyst Brett Callow.

The intrigue: The federal government has taken notice of the recent wave of attacks targeting hospitals and health care organizations.

  • This month, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency released guidance for hospitals to help them better safeguard their networks from attacks.
  • CNN reported that CISA had reached out to Ardent Health the day before Thanksgiving to alert the company to malicious activity affecting its systems.

What we're watching: A specific ransomware gang hasn't taken responsibility for the attack on Ardent Health yet, and it remains unknown if the hackers stole any patient information.

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