German hospital hacked, patient taken to another city dies

Source Malay Mail

Source Malay Mail

This tragic incident demonstrates the capability of online attacks by cyber criminals causing real-world destruction and in this case death.

A German woman has died after being diverted from a hospital that had suffered a ransomware attack, allegedly the first death attributed directly to such an attack. The attack, which took place last week in Dusseldorf, indirectly killed an emergency patient who had to be rerouted to an alternative hospital some 32km away in Wuppertal.

Prosecutors in Cologne have taken over the investigation and are now probing unknown suspects on suspicion of manslaughter, prosecutor Christoph Hebbecker said on Friday. This meant that emergency patients were taken elsewhere and operations were postponed.

According to the Associated Press, it all started with the hijacking of several servers at Heinrich Heine University, which had the internal system fully encrypted, becoming unavailable for use.

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He added that investigations are in particular looking into "whether there is a criminal connection between the hacking and the death of this person".

Independent cybersecurity and privacy researcher Lukasz Olejnik, co-author of the International Committee of the Red Cross' 2019 report entitled "The Potential Human Cost of Cyber Operations", warned in May 2019 that hospitals' increased reliance on digital systems for everyday operations concurrently raises the "risk of [the hospital] falling apart following cyberattack".

"There was no concrete ransom demand", according to the hospital. Duesseldrof police were able toestablish contact with the hackers and advised the hackers they had attacked the hospital, endangering patients. Perhaps proving that sometimes cybercriminals do have a heart, the perpetrators withdrew their demands for a ransom and provided a key to decrypt the data.

North Rhine-Westphalia state's justice minister Peter Biesenbach produced a report which said the hackers are no longer reachable. "We're not used to thinking of cyberattacks in terms of life and death, but that was the case here". Just last week, the University Hospital in New Jersey was hit with ransomware, and subsequently saw patient medical records published on the internet. "It has to get there through exploited vulnerabilities, phishing, or other means", said Erlin. "And the best way to prevent ransomware infections is to address the infection vectors by patching vulnerabilities, ensuring systems are configured securely, and preventing phishing".

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