Hackers Hold Hollywood Hospital To Ransom For $3.6 Million In Bitcoin In Ransomware Cyberattack

Anne Sewell

Hackers are holding a Hollywood hospital to ransom, demanding $3.6 million in Bitcoin to release vital patient data encrypted by them in a ransomware cyberattack.

The Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center is located in the center of Los Angeles, and an internal emergency has reportedly been declared, as medical staff are unable to access vital patient data.

In a report by NBC Los Angeles, the hospital's president and CEO, Allen Stefanek, told the media that hospital staff first noticed "significant IT issues" on February 12. However investigations show that the cyberattack may have started more than a week ago.

— Catalin C. (@campuscodi) February 14, 2016

Forensic computer experts from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the FBI are now involved to investigate the cyberattack further.

The International Business Times reports that an unnamed doctor has admitted that the computer system in the hospital was hacked and that the hospital is being held to ransom.

Reportedly, the cyberattack severely affects the day-to-day operations at the hospital, with the doctor adding that the various medical departments now communicate via overworked fax machines as they have no access to email. Apparently, a number of patients have now been transferred to other hospitals.

— IT Governance (@ITGovernance) February 16, 2016

When asked why cyberattackers hit a hospital, a computer forensic expert, Eric Robi, said the attackers might think that the "greater sense of urgency" in the hospital environment would lead to their ransom being quickly paid.

Ramsomware attacks of this nature are often carried out by cyber criminals and hackers to extort money from Internet users. What they do is to encrypt sensitive or personal data belonging to users, which they will then unlock for a fee. This is normally demanded in the form of the cryptocurrency bitcoin.

Reportedly, an entire criminal underground economy has arisen from such ransomware cyberattacks, and security experts are increasingly telling companies and affected users not to pay the ransom, as this only fuels the cybercrime wave.

According to a blog post by The Media Waves, after a recent attack on the website, Patreon members were targeted by a threatening email, demanding one bitcoin to avoid their personal information – including credit card details – being leaked online. Fortunately, in that case it was reportedly only a bluff, as the information was secure.

The Inquisitr recently reported on a similar incident in Israel where the Electricity Authority was targeted by a ransomware cyberattack by hackers, which paralyzed some of their computers for over two days.

— Silensec (@Silensec) January 28, 2016

As reported by the International Business Times, there was recently a ransomware cyberattack in the U.K. The attack hit the Lincolnshire County Council who were told by the hackers to pay £1 million ($1.45 million) to unlock their computer systems. The cyberattack shut down the entire council's network for almost a full work week and was eventually blamed on "O-day malware."

Reportedly, around 300 staff computers were affected by the ransomware, and it is unknown if the servers and data stores were affected.

That attack was also launched after a staff member opened a suspect email attachment, one of the most common methods hackers and cyberattackers use to spread malware.

[Photo via Flickr by Francis Storr/CC BY-SA 2.0]