Cyber-attack forces hospital to revert to pen and paper

A cyber-attack on a hospital in Rouen, France last week caused “very long delays in care”, according to news agency AFP.

Medical staff at the city’s University Hospital Centre (CHU) had to abandon computers after ransomware rendered them unusable. Staff reverted to the “old-fashioned method of paper and pencil”, said head of communications, Remi Heym.

The 1,300-bed hospital said servers and many desktop computers were out of action as a result of the attack, meaning staff had to handle appointments by phone, issuing written prescriptions and reports.

No medical or personal data has gone missing as a result of the attack, according to the hospital. So far, no details have been revealed about the strain of ransomware involved.

According to France’s Le Monde newspaper, national cyber-crime agency, ANSSI, helped to limit the scale of the attack. The paper reports that the agency also assisted with cleaning up computers infected by the virus, re-installing software and recovering encrypted files.

The hospital stated it would not pay any ransom to have its files restored, adding that all its systems should be returned to normal by this weekend.

French police have launched a formal investigation into who was behind the ransomware attack. Le Monde reported that ransomware attacks on French hospitals were rare, but said two other establishments had been hit in recent years.

Hospitals have become a favourite target of cyber-attackers because the patient data they hold is highly valuable and the consequences of the data becoming inaccessible can be life-threatening.

The biggest outbreak was in August this year, which impacted 120 hospitals and offices forming the Ramsay private hospital group. That organisation reportedly paid the ransom to unlock computers and restore encrypted files.

In May 2017, a cyber-attack crippled large parts of the NHS – 47 trusts were affected and seven had to temporarily close their doors in A&E to ambulances.

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