Hospitals, Health IT

Kansas ransomware case shows how inevitable attacks are

The frightening thing about this incident was that Kansas Heart Hospital had and implemented a plan to combat the attack.


After Kansas Heart Hospital paid to have ransomware removed from its computer system, hackers didn’t fully restore the network. Instead, they demanded a second ransom, according to Network World.

The Wichita, Kansas specialty hospital refused to pay again, saying that it was no longer “a wise maneuver and strategy,” President Dr. Greg Duick reportedly said. Network World then questioned Duick’s IT knowledge:

It’s unknown if Duick is a highly technical individual who understands ransomware and is giving seriously dumbed-down explanations or if he is repeating what he was told. For example, he described ransomware as this: “It would be like you’re working on your computer and all of a sudden, your computer says, sorry can’t help you anymore. It became widespread throughout the institution.”

The frightening thing about this incident was that Kansas Heart Hospital had and implemented a plan to combat the attack. “I think it helped in minimizing the amount of damage the encrypted agent could do,” Duick told the publication.

Could the hospital have prevented the intrusion with a better plan? Possibly not.

“If a SEAL team lands on your house, I don’t care what kind of security you have, that SEAL team is getting in,” Charles Podesta, CIO of UC Irvine Health in Orange County, California, said Monday at the Health Technology Forum Innovation Conference on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, California.

Ransomware today is practically inevitable in healthcare, Podesta added. “It’s not really what if, it’s when,” he said.

That’s because medical records are so valuable, worth perhaps 10 times what financial records go for on the black market, according to Sajid Ahmed, chief information and innovation officer at Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital in Los Angeles.

As Dr. Todd Ferris, CTO of Stanford Health Care, explained, when a credit card is stolen, it’s easy for the bank to cancel it and issue a new one. “They can’t do that around medical identity theft,” Ferris said.

And no, the healthcare ransomware issue isn’t overblown in the media, Ahmed said. He reported that the board chairman at King asks about network security at every meeting.

“Ransomware is a big issue. It’s a very big issue,” Ahmed said.

Photo: Flickr user Thomas Salazar