Ransomware attacks on hospitals impact patients with longer stays, test delays and increased deaths

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In context: Ransomware can have a devastating effect on any business it infects. But in the case of hospitals, a popular target for cybercriminals, it can be deadly and potentially impact the health and life expectancy of patients.

A new report from think tank The Ponemon Institute, sponsored by cybersecurity firm Censinet, reveals the impact of ransomware on hospitals at a time when many are struggling to cope with the pandemic.

The report interviewed 597 IT and IT security professionals in healthcare delivery organizations (HDOs). In the past two years, 43% reported having suffered a ransomware attack. Of these respondents, 67% said their organization had been affected by an attack, while 33% said they had suffered two or more.

Ransomware can have a huge impact on the patients staying in these hospitals. The most common consequence, reported by 71% of survey respondents, was an increase in the length of their stay. This was closely followed by delays in procedures and testing which resulted in poor results (70%).

Additionally, 61% said the attacks led to an increase in the number of patients transferred or diverted to other facilities, while 36% said they were responsible for an increase in complications from medical procedures.

The most disruptive effect ransomware can have on hospitals is the death of patients. Of those polled, 22% said it increased death rates. ZDNet reports that police investigated the death of a patient following a ransomware attack on a German hospital – they died while being transferred to another location – but authorities concluded that the wrong the patient’s health meant he was still likely to die.

“Our results correlated the increase in cyber attacks, particularly ransomware, with negative effects on patient care, exacerbated by the impact of COVID on healthcare providers,” said Larry Ponemon, president and founder from the Ponemon Institute.

We have seen several hospitals and healthcare centers affected by ransomware attacks over the years. Additionally, the FBI in 2020 issued a warning to expect a campaign to take advantage of the additional pressure institutions were feeling from Covid-19. Illustrating how common this has become, hospitals affected by ransomware have even appeared as part of the Watch Dogs 2 DLC.


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