Central Ohio Hospitals On Alert After California Hospital Hacked For Ransom

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Central Ohio hospitals are watching a story unfold on the west coast that has implications for how secure information is everywhere.

The Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center paid hackers $17,000 to get access back to its computer system after they successfully locked up the facility's computer communications this week.

When the news broke that a major hospital could fall victim to ransomware, it made the health industry take notice.

“Very aware that ransomware is an up and coming thing, it is a way for crooks to see a financial return on their work,” Phyllis Teater, Chief Information Officer for OSU’s Wexner Medical Center, said.

It's definitely on the radar for the center.

“We spent a lot of resources and time making sure that we’re keeping our patients’ information safe,” Teater said.  “We do many things to protect and detect against attacks.”

Patient information wasn't affected in this case.  And actually, information isn't the goal of the crime at all and hospitals aren't the sole target.

“The idea is that they’re blasting it out all over the place,” Interhack Founder Matt Curtin said.

Curtin is a computer forensics expert.  He says the hackers try to invade all types of companies and some individuals. The ransomware turns normal communications into garble.

“It encrypts the data on the computer so the legitimate user of the computer can’t get to their own files,” Curtin said.  “What they want is to be able to force you to pay the money so they don’t really need a copy of the data; they’re not interested in that.”

And often times paying to get the system unlocked is the most efficient solution.

“In a lot of cases, the cost of recreating it will be such that they don’t really have any good option,” Curtin said.

A corporation the size of OSU's Wexner Medical Center understands.

“When you start getting into large amounts, now you start saying ‘what’s the risk reward for trying to restore from back up or just do what you need to do?,’” Teater said.

Teater said the hospital takes a lot of precautions to make sure this doesn't happen, from backups to the latest software. 

Curtin also stressed the importance of firewalls inside a system to keep problems from spreading.