Well, this is scary.
For more than a week, computer systems at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles have been offline due to a particularly nasty cyber attack. Malicious software known as ransomware has locked up data throughout the hospital's IT system - including email, digital scans and certain kinds of medical records.
Local news operations are reporting that the hackers are demanding 9,000 bitcoins - more than $3 million U.S. - to unlock the hospital's computer system.
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Ransomware incidents refers to a type of cyber attack in which sensitive data is remotely targeted and encrypted using standard protocols. When data is locked up in this fashion, it's virtually impossible to retrieve without key codes held by the hacker. Ransomware criminals typically demand payment via bitcoin, which is harder to trace.
The attack has had an impact on some day-to-day operations at the hospital, forcing staffers to revert to fax machines and handwritten notes. Doctors and staffers are also unable to access certain types of medical records.
The hospital's CEO has declared a state of "internal emergency" and some patients are being transported to other facilities. One doctor described the situation as "very dangerous" - specifically because care givers can't access medical records for existing and returning patients.
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Hospital officials say that the attack appears to be random, and was not specifically targeted at the medical center. There is also no evidence that confidential patient information has been compromised or accessed.
The FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department have launched an investigation. The hospital has also hired computer forensics experts to help determine the source of the cyber attack.