Washington News Bureau

Lawmakers are sounding the alarm after recent cyber attacks at hospitals

WASHINGTON, D.C. — There are new warnings about cyber attacks at hospitals.

Lawmakers in Washington say they’re happening more frequently and they held a hearing to address what needs to happen.

Channel 2′s Washington bureau reporter Blair Miller was in Washington where he learned about the consequences of these attacks.

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Two big things came out of this hearing: patient information is at risk. But even worse, a cyber attack can impact the treatment you get when needed the most.

The impact of cybersecurity attacks on healthcare facilities is all too real and was laid out in the congressional hearing.

“A ransomware group stole confidential patient information which included names, social security numbers, and medical information from a health center,” Sen. Josh Hawley said.

Other situations were much more tragic including a ransomware attack on a hospital in Alabama.

“The attack prevented healthcare providers from using equipment that monitors a baby’s condition during delivery and as a result, the infant tragically passed away,” Sen. Gary Peters said.


Lawmakers said in some cases, the ransomware attacks are resulting in patient information being sold on the black market.

Health security leaders are sounding the alarm, saying rural hospitals are more vulnerable because they don’t have the staff to watch for attacks 24-7.

“If nobody is watching the console and nobody is there to pick that up, then it could be hours, critical hours in a cyberattack before they notice that somebody has gotten into their network,” Kate Pierce said.

Experts say more government funding is needed to help rural providers. Also, beef up cyber security at all facilities before more patients become victims.

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Some lawmakers want medical facilities to be required to report cyber-attacks and ransomware payments.

There’s pending legislation that could do just that.