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Omaha hospitals prepared as agencies warn of health provider cyberattack

Published: Oct. 29, 2020 at 5:36 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A new warning from the FBI: Investigators are calling it a “credible computer security threat” against health care systems.

Remember, it was just last month that Nebraska Medicine’s internal system went down after a cyberattack.

While administrators say no patient records were impacted, it did force the hospital — and clinics tied to the system — to scale back appointments and surgeries since it was difficult to piece together a patient’s history in a pinch.

Now, the FBI is warning hospitals across the country of a threat that could be carried out in the next few days.

Three government agencies, including the FBI, are issuing the warning of the potential for a cyberattack. The cybercriminals are using ransomware.

It works like this: pay a ransom to unlock the computer system, or the hospital may not be able to access its own information — a move that can be paralyzing to any organization.

“This ransomware is almost impossible to stop because all it takes is for one employee to click on a malicious link and that injects the malware into the system and they’ve locked up the data,” said Ken Dilanian, NBC News National Security Correspondent.

The attack on Nebraska Medicine’s system last month caused significant downtime and delayed several patient procedures and appointments. In many cases, patient information went old school: pen and paper.

While the local system is back up and running, in Oregon, ransomware clogged the computers of Sky Lakes Medical Center, one of four hospitals in three states impacted last week alone by cyberattacks.

The FBI has this advice for the private sector: Make sure public health providers plan ahead, and practice how the computer system would function in an emergency. The drill will often expose gaps that can be fixed before the cyberattacks strike.

Nebraska Medicine and UNMC staff are up-to-speed in case the cyberattack threat directed at the health care system in general across the country hits them, telling 6 News that they’ve taken “immediate and decisive steps to further protect its systems from this threat.”

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