ransomware attack

Harbor Medical Group, a multi-clinic covered entity in Washington State, was the target of a ransomware attack on Saturday, June 15, 2019. Two days later, the attackers had already gained access to entity-wide services and systems. The hackers have demanded $1,000,000 in “ransom” money to unencrypt the systems encrypted by the ransomware attack. It is not clear whether the ransom has been paid. As of August 15, 2019, electronic systems were still down at the clinics as a result of the ransomware attack.

What Caused the Ransomware Attack?

The ransomware attack is believed to have been caused by a single employee opening and responding to a phishing email. Phishing is a cybercrime characterized by the attacker posing as a trusted, reputable entity or person, typically through an email communication. The targeted entity receives the communication, and, believing it to be legitimate, clicks on a link or attachment contained in the email. The link or attachment is then revealed to be a malicious link or attachment, or malware, that can harm the end user’s system by extracting login credentials, passwords, and, in the case where a healthcare organization is the targeted victim, protected health information, or PHI.

A Harbor Medical Group spokesperson for the hospital stated that patient care has not been affected. Emergency care is still being provided, and appointments are still going forward as planned. Not everything is running smoothly, however. Some appointments have been delayed, and issues persist with accessing certain patient information.

Harbor Medical has reported the attack to the FBI, and is assisting the FBI with its investigation.

What is the Extent of the Damage?

While, to date, there is no evidence of improper data access or theft, the possibility of improper access or theft cannot be ruled out. The following information of affected patients was exposed: 

  • Full names
  • Addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Dates of birth
  • Social Security number
  • Insurance information
  • Diagnoses
  • Treatment information

Harbor Medical has begun notifying the 85,000 patients affected by the breach caused by the ransomware attack. Affected patients have been offered complimentary credit monitoring services. Harbor Medical security measures are being assessed, and Harbor Medical has stated that additional hardware and software solutions will be implemented as appropriate to improve security. 

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