Ransomware is no longer a concern exclusively for major health systems. Small regional hospitals and specialty clinics are also facing a barrage of malicious cyberattacks.
The number of health care providers reporting cyber incidents rises almost daily, according to a federal database.
STAT News detailed a ransomware attack that crippled Sky Lakes Medical Center, a 100-bed hospital in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Hospital officials decided on an extreme counter-response when they discovered the attack: power down about 2,500 devices and 600-plus servers.
For the next 23 days, Sky Lakes medical staff returned to pen and paper for note-taking, struggling to care for patients without access to critical information such as medical histories and lab results, STAT reported.
Cyber attacks can devastate a health system of any size. However, the costs can be incredibly steep for smaller hospitals and medical practices. It is not just financial costs, which could mean delaying medical equipment upgrades, but reputational when it comes to patient trust.
By the end of 2021, the average ransom payment exceeded $322,000, according to federal health officials.
Sky Lakes did not pay the ransom. However, the attack incurred an estimated $10 million impact on the hospital, which could not bill for services for months and replaced its entire fleet of computers afterward.
“There was a commonly held belief that ‘Who would want to target us?’” Lee Kim, a senior cybersecurity and privacy principle at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society said to STAT. “That was probably true some years ago when ransomware was first starting up.”
But today, Kim said, the size of an organization doesn’t matter anymore. “Everyone is a target,” she said. “We can no longer rely on faith that rural providers won’t be in the cross hairs.”
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