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UHS Shuts Down Systems in U.S. Hospitals Following Cyberattack

Universal Health Services (UHS) over the weekend shut down the IT networks at multiple hospitals in the United States, after being hit with a cyberattack.

Universal Health Services (UHS) over the weekend shut down the IT networks at multiple hospitals in the United States, after being hit with a cyberattack.

A Fortune 500 company operating more than 400 facilities in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the United Kingdom, the healthcare services provider has approximately 90,000 employees and claimed an annual revenue of $11.4 billion for 2019.

On Monday, some of the company’s employees took to Reddit to share information on a cyberattack that forced the shutdown of computers at UHS facilities nationwide. The hospital networks were shut down as well, but phone lines appear to have continued to operate throughout the incident.

“I work in a UHS facility and yes the system is down. Still have phones but that’s it,” one person said.

Numerous Reddit users claiming to work at UHS facilities across the country revealed that systems started being shut down on Sunday, soon after midnight, and that employees were forbidden to turn on computers or the Internet.

Some claim that, prior to the shutdown, they observed some of the computers behaving strangely. Operation continued on paper, where possible, it seems.

“When the attack happened multiple antivirus programs were disabled by the attack and hard drives just lit up with activity. After 1min or so of this the computers logged out and shutdown. When you try to power back on the computers they automatically just shut down,” one of the users said.

While many said that patient care wasn’t critically affected, others detailed difficulties in receiving lab results or performing other types of investigations in a timely manner. There was also one unconfirmed report of patients dying due to such delays.

Also on Monday, UHS published a statement confirming that its IT network across facilities is suffering an outage due to a cyberattack.

“We implement extensive IT security protocols and are working diligently with our IT security partners to restore IT operations as quickly as possible. In the meantime, our facilities are using their established back-up processes including offline documentation methods. Patient care continues to be delivered safely and effectively,” the company revealed.

UHS also noted that patient and employee data does not appear to have been “accessed, copied or misused” during the incident.

While the company did not provide additional information on the incident, the manner in which the attack unfolded (based on employee reports) and the company’s reaction suggest ransomware was involved.

Some of the employees commenting on Reddit claimed that ransomware was indeed used and that the attackers demanded a ransom of tens of millions of dollars.

Furthermore, Bleeping Computer and TechCrunch report that information from people with knowledge of the incident leads to the conclusion that the Ryuk ransomware was used.

Hospitals in the Valley Health System, which appear affiliated to UHS, were also impacted, local news outlets report.

Related: Government Software Provider Tyler Technologies Hit by Possible Ransomware Attack

Related: Data Center Provider Equinix Hit by Ransomware

Related: University Project Tracks Ransomware Attacks on Critical Infrastructure

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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