Skip to Content
Computing

Ransomware did not kill a German hospital patient

Still, police warn that it’s only a matter of time before hacking hospitals leads to tragic results.
Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash

The news: When a German hospital patient died in September while ransomware disrupted emergency care at the facility, police launched a negligent-homicide investigation and said they might hold the hackers responsible. The case attracted worldwide attention because it could have been the first time law enforcement considered a cyberattack to be directly responsible for a death.

But after months of investigation, police now say the patient was in such poor health that she likely would have died anyway, and that the cyberattack was not responsible. 

The findings: “The delay was of no relevance to the final outcome,” Markus Hartmann, the chief public prosecutor at Cologne public prosecutor's office, told Wired. “The medical condition was the sole cause of the death, and this is entirely independent from the cyberattack."

Although police have dropped the claim that hackers are responsible for the patient’s death, German law enforcement is still investigating the case. Hartmann, and many cybersecurity experts, believe it’s only a matter of time before an attack against hospitals causes such a tragedy.

The warning: In October, a wave of ransomware attacks hit American hospitals just as coronavirus cases started spiking. No one died as a result, but the prolific hackers involved did make their money, which means all the incentives are there for more attacks—just as coronavirus rates continue to rise rapidly around the western world. 

Deep Dive

Computing

What’s next for the world’s fastest supercomputers

Scientists have begun running experiments on Frontier, the world’s first official exascale machine, while facilities worldwide build other machines to join the ranks.

The future of open source is still very much in flux

Free and open software have transformed the tech industry. But we still have a lot to work out to make them healthy, equitable enterprises.

The beautiful complexity of the US radio spectrum

The United States Frequency Allocation Chart shows how the nation’s precious radio frequencies are carefully shared.

How ubiquitous keyboard software puts hundreds of millions of Chinese users at risk

Third-party keyboard apps make typing in Chinese more efficient, but they can also be a privacy nightmare.

Stay connected

Illustration 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.