Yet another New Jersey healthcare provider has confirmed that their network was compromised by ransomware this past December. Hackensack Meridian Health, the largest association of hospitals in the state, confirmed that the attack which disrupted their systems around December 6 was in fact a malware infection that locked down their files. They were only able to regain control after paying off the hackers an undisclosed amount provided by their insurance policy.
Hackensack Meridian Health Ransomware Infection Extent
The malware which infected Hackensack Meridian affected “anything with computer software — scheduling and billing systems and labs and radiology,” an IT professional in the Meridian network told NJ Advance Media. For five days, many electronic systems went down, forcing non-emergency procedures to be rescheduled and medical professionals to return to manual processes.
A spokesperson for Health Professionals and Allied Employees, a union that represents nursing staff, told the press that they had reports that members had to return to recording everything with pen and paper. However, documents had to be frequently rechecked for accuracy and some operations became stalled as hospital staff ensured that no incorrect information would cause any harm. In at least one case, a patient had to provide her medical history to her doctor herself as the records were not available.
As of this writing, Meridian IT staff have been able to restore most of their network, and the NJ Health Department says it is “working closely with the leadership team” at Hackensack Meridian according to Government Technology magazine.
Healthcare, Public Sector and SMBs Biggest Ransom Targets
Hospitals have frequently been victims of ransomware, though the consolidation of healthcare networks like Hackensack Meridian Health and RWJ Barnabas Health make them even more attractive targets. Each of these chains are valued at over $5 billion, and the inevitable centralization of data between member hospitals means that hackers can hold a greater (and more lucrative) amount of information hostage with less touchpoints to worry about.
Many other non-profits and public institutions throughout NJ have been victimized by ransomware attacks, including the Livingston school district just a week before Meridian. However, many small businesses have been threatened with malware and ransom demands as well. The common factor between these parties is the value of the data – figuratively, or literally, a matter of life or death for many – and the resources they have on hand to restore their infected system.
Back Up Your Data to Defend Against File Locking Malware
Ransomware hackers are continuously trying to infect your system and lock down your data – only backing up your data in a secure environment provides a guarantee that you will be able to retain your critical files. SWK’s backup solution is the best way to protect your information from being lost forever to cybercriminals or other disasters, and resuming operations.
Download our free e-book on Data Protection and Backups for SMBs to learn how to prevent downtime by keeping your electronic information secured in the cloud.