Tri-cities, WA

People, Businesses, and Healthcare Under Cyber Siege: Ardent Health Services and Beyond

John M. Dabbs

TRI-CITIES, Tenn. - Multiple persons have reported cyber-attacks and hacking of their Facebook, e-mail, and Amazon accounts in the last few days in the Tri-Cities. My wife was one of them, and we spent the better part of every spare minute getting her accounts back under control and killing Ransomware emails. I received a few in my personal email as well.

Concerning a development, Ardent Health Services, a prominent healthcare provider operating 30 hospitals in six U.S. states, disclosed a ransomware attack on its systems on November 23, 2023. This incident has forced healthcare providers to divert emergency care patients to other hospitals and pause certain non-urgent procedures, highlighting a growing trend of cyber threats to healthcare systems nationwide.

The Ardent Health Services Cyberattack

According to a statement from Ardent Health Services, the organization discovered the ransomware attack on the morning of November 23, 2023. The attack led to the shutdown of their entire network, affecting various information technology applications, including clinical programs. Hospitals impacted by the attack divert patients requiring emergency care to other facilities, although they continue to provide medical screening and stabilizing care. Ardent is in the process of restoring its encrypted systems but has not yet provided a timeline for full restoration. The full extent of any compromised patient health or financial data is still under investigation [18][19][27].

National Cybersecurity Concerns in Healthcare

This attack is part of a larger pattern of cyber threats facing healthcare organizations in the U.S. In 2023, 15 healthcare systems operating 29 hospitals have been targeted by ransomware incidents, with data being stolen from 12 of these organizations [35]. Furthermore, a report from Check Point Research found a 57% increase in cyberattacks in the U.S. in 2022, with healthcare organizations suffering an average of 1,410 weekly attacks per organization, 86% higher than in 2021 [41].

The Biden Administration's National Cybersecurity Strategy

In response to these growing threats, the Biden administration issued a National Cybersecurity Strategy in 2023, focusing on defending critical infrastructure, including the healthcare sector. The strategy aims to shift cyber defense responsibilities, improve cyber resilience, and disrupt cyber threat operations. It emphasizes the importance of IoT device security in healthcare and proposes shifting some cybersecurity responsibilities from users to vendors. The strategy also supports legislative efforts to limit the collection and transfer of personally identifiable information (PII) [49][50][51][52][53][54].

Speculation

With the ongoing wars and hostilities within other countries, such as Korea, China, Russia, etc. One can't help but wonder if these cyber attacks are the work of thieves and pirates or the result of state-sponsored terrorism.

The attacks on my wife's accounts were traced to account access from Vietnam and elsewhere in the United States. With the ability of VPN tunneling, it does not mean they originated from within the USA or Vietnam. It is hard to tell without technological muscle beyond our abilities.

Conclusion

The ransomware attack on Ardent Health Services is a stark reminder of the vulnerabilities facing the healthcare sector in the U.S. It underscores the urgent need for enhanced cybersecurity measures and strategies to protect critical healthcare infrastructure (and sensitive patient data), in addition to securing our own tablets, computers, and smartphones.

As the nation grapples with the increasing frequency and sophistication of cyber attacks, the government's role in bolstering cybersecurity defenses becomes more crucial. It's a problem beyond the military and intelligence realm. This issue impacts our national and personal economies.

Sources and Further Reading:

  1. Ardent hospital ERs disrupted in 6 states after ransomware attack - BleepingComputer [18][19]
  2. Ardent Health Services Reports Information Technology Security Incident - Ardent Health Services [27]
  3. 15 healthcare systems have been hit with ransomware attacks in 2023 - Becker's Hospital Review [35]
  4. Keeping Hospitals and Patients Safe against Cyberattacks - AHA News [41]
  5. How The New National Cybersecurity Strategy Will Impact Healthcare Cybersecurity - HealthITSecurity [49][50][51][52][53][54]


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John is a writer and journalist with a passion for travel, adventure, and the outdoors. You can find him at HTTP://Muckrack.com/john-dabbs.

Bristol, TN
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