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Under Attack: Ransomware Attack Against LA Hospital

Written By: A. Wilt

The latest ransomware attack occurred Feb 5 2016 and targeted Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital

February 2016

The latest high-profile ransomware attack occurred on February 5, 2016, and targeted the Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital. Their systems were down for over a week, and staff had to rely on pen and paper recordkeeping for patient care during the outage.

Ransomware is a type of computer malware where hackers attack a computer system and take it over, encrypting the user's data so that the system is unusable. They then provide the decryption key to unlock it in exchange for a ransom.  Such ransom is usually demanded in bitcoin, to make it harder for law enforcement to trace, and the attacks typically target smaller organizations where security is less rigorous.

In this case, the hospital's entire computer system, including the pharmacy, lab, and emergency room systems, was taken over. Initial reports claimed that the hackers demanded the equivalent of $3.4 million in ransom, though a letter from hospital CEO Allen Stefanek claims that that figure was false, and the true ransom was for 40 bitcoins, or approximately $17,000.00. He also says that patient care was not affected during the attack, though some patients were moved to other hospitals.

Law enforcement was contacted, though not until after the ransom had been paid, and an FBI investigation is pending. The hospital is also working to upgrade its technology security in order to prevent future attacks.

The hospital paid the ransom, and systems were restored earlier this week, with the hospital's rationale being that paying the ransom was the most expedient way to have the system restored.

While paying the ransom may be the answer in individual cases, where expediency is the biggest concern, in the larger picture, the fact that the ransom was paid could inspire copycat attacks.  

Ransome ware attack on  Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital


Allen Stefanek, President & CEO. (2016, February 17). Memorandum. Retrieved from

Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center. (n.d.). Retrieved from


Other Articles of Interest:

Iranian Hackers Hit NYC Dam in…2013?

America's Health Care Spending Still Rising

Was it China Again? Millions of Federal Government Employee Records Hacked

Mandated Health Insurance—Anthem Inc. Suffers Huge Data Breach


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