Cyberattack at Chicago Hospital; Possibility of Ransom Attack On Victims

Chicago, Illinois: Lurie Children’s Hospital recently revealed that it encountered a cyberattack from an external source. As a result, the hospital had to temporarily shut down its phone, email, and other systems on Jan. 31, leading to disruptions in its normal operations.

Hospital officials released a statement acknowledging that their network had been breached by an individual with a criminal background, although they refrained from disclosing the identity of the person involved. They claimed to possess evidence of “suspicious activity” and made the decision to take the systems offline on Jan. 31.

No timeframe was provided by the officials regarding the restoration of the hospital’s systems.

“We are fully committed to addressing this issue with utmost seriousness and have been diligently collaborating with external and internal experts, as well as law enforcement, including the FBI,” stated Dr. Marcelo Malakooti, Lurie’s chief medical officer, during a press conference held on Thursday. “The investigation is currently in progress and remains active. Given the complexity of our systems, it may take some time to resolve these incidents.

The hospital reassured that the provision of care has remained uninterrupted despite falling victim to a criminal cyberattack.

Additionally, Lurie officials provided updates on the situation with hospital employees during a town hall meeting held on Thursday. Based on information shared by an employee with CBS 2, it is estimated that certain issues stemming from the outage may require several weeks to be resolved. However, there is hope that the phone system will be restored by later today. Despite the potential challenges, hospital officials remain confident in their preparedness for such attacks and their ability to handle the situation financially, according to the employee’s notes.

In a voicemail sent to hospital employees, CBS 2 reports that workers were urged to be cautious about potential identity theft and fraud in their personal affairs. The hospital spokesperson declined to provide any information regarding the potential impact of the cyberattack on staff members’ personal information.

A network outage affected the hospital in Streeterville and three other locations in Chicago, Glenview, and Skokie, causing inconvenience for staff members who were unable to access medical records, order prescriptions, schedule procedures, and check test results for over a week.

Parents of patients at the hospital were extremely upset with the situation on Thursday, especially after discovering that there was malicious intent.

Read More: Latin King Gang Member Sentenced More Than 30 Years In Prison For Sex Trafficking And Racketeering

“There’s a special place in hell reserved for those responsible,” remarked Debora Land.

“The leadership at Lurie lacks my confidence,” Land expressed, noting that it is a positive step that they are addressing the situation, but there is still room for further action.”

Although the hospital did not officially acknowledge a cyberattack until Thursday, the FBI had already begun investigating a “cybersecurity incident” that caused the network outage at Lurie.

It may require several weeks, or possibly even months, for all systems to fully recover, depending on the level of complexity of the attack.

“Health care institutions are often targeted due to the critical nature of their operations,” explained cybersecurity expert Rob Lee from the SANS Institute.

According to Lee, institutions often take longer than expected to restore operations to normal while they consider whether or not to provide payment.

“There is a strong opposition from law enforcement towards organizations paying the ransom,” he stated. “However, it is crucial for organizations to ensure their survival and progress.”

Additionally, the U.S. State Department made an announcement on Thursday regarding a significant reward of up to $10 million. This reward is being offered to individuals who can provide valuable information that would aid in identifying the members of an organized crime group known as Hive Ransomware. This group has been accused of targeting public institutions and carrying out ransom attacks, where they demand payment in exchange for releasing hijacked data. It remains uncertain whether Lurie was affected by that particular ransomware incident.

“Their involvement can be traced to multiple attacks,” stated Lee.

Last year, a total of 46 hospital systems fell victim to ransomware attacks, as per the available data. However, the actual figure could potentially be significantly greater, as there are currently no compulsory reporting obligations in place.

Lurie has established a call center to assist patients with any inquiries or concerns they may have regarding appointments, prescription refills, and more. You can reach them at 1-800-KIDS-DOC (1-800-543-7362). Our call center is open during the following hours: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday from 8 a.m. to noon. If the call center is closed, patients have the option to reach out to the main operator at 312-227-4000.