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Ransomware Attacks Impact 52 Million Patients

539 healthcare systems including Chicago sites hit since 2016
By Bruce Japsen

There have been 539 confirmed ransomware attacks on healthcare organizations in the U.S. – including several Chicago health system sites – since 2016, potentially impacting 52 million patient records, a new report from cybersecurity research firm Comparitech said.

Such attacks are estimated to have cost the U.S. economy over $77 billion just from the system downtime alone, Comparitech said in its report. Such downtime lost to a ransomware attack was an average of 14 days but, in some cases, the damage took months to repair or has continued to be worked on months later.

While ransomware attacks aren’t a new phenomena, they have been on the rise in healthcare in recent years and tend to be particularly destructive, crippling key systems that prevent hospitals and other healthcare facilities from “accessing crucial patient data until a fee is paid to the hacker or the ransomware is removed by IT specialists,” the Comparitech report said.

Though few healthcare victims of ransomware attacks disclose ransom amounts, those that told Comparitech said “ransom demands varied dramatically from $1,600 to $10 million.” Comparitech said in its report that its researchers could only find a ransom demand figure for 34 out of the 539 attacks since 2016.

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