Skip to Content

Hollywood Hospital’s Run-In with Ransomware Is Part of an Alarming Trend in Cybercrime

Cybercriminals are frequently using their arsenal of malware to target health-care facilities.
February 18, 2016

A hospital in Los Angeles held hostage by malicious software for nearly two weeks has relented and paid hackers $17,000 worth of bitcoins in order to unlock important data. But while that resolves the most high-profile incident yet involving so-called ransomware, the tactic, which involves infecting a network, encrypting data, and demanding a ransom for unlocking it, is only growing in popularity. And cyberattacks on health-care facilities are on the rise.

Hospitals are getting hacked more often for several reasons. Many have converted or are in the process of converting paper records to digital ones, and the data in those records includes personal information that can fetch a healthy price in illegal data markets. Further, data security is commonly not prioritized highly enough in health-care facilities; systems are often out of date or not properly maintained, and the need to access data quickly in urgent situations can trump security.

Officials from the hospital that was attacked this time around, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, claim there is no evidence that any data was stolen from the network. But the episode illustrates the power of ransomware, one of a range of sophisticated cyberweapons available to criminals looking to attack the industry.

Computer systems at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles were held hostage by ransomware for almost two weeks.

Things could get worse before they get better. As hospitals add more connected devices to their networks, they potentially create more ways for hackers to get in. And the push for more personalized medicine—in particular, patients' demands for more and better access to their records—is likely to raise even more security-related challenges.

(Read more: The Guardian, Ars Technica, “Hackers Are Homing In on Hospitals”)

Keep Reading

Most Popular

mouse engineered to grow human hair
mouse engineered to grow human hair

Going bald? Lab-grown hair cells could be on the way

These biotech companies are reprogramming cells to treat baldness, but it’s still early days.

tonga eruption
tonga eruption

Tonga’s volcano blast cut it off from the world. Here’s what it will take to get it reconnected.

The world is anxiously awaiting news from the island—but on top of the physical destruction, the eruption has disconnected it from the internet.

conceptual illustration showing various women's faces being scanned
conceptual illustration showing various women's faces being scanned

A horrifying new AI app swaps women into porn videos with a click

Deepfake researchers have long feared the day this would arrive.

seeing is believing concept
seeing is believing concept

Our brains exist in a state of “controlled hallucination”

Three new books lay bare the weirdness of how our brains process the world around us.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.