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Hacking attempt troubles Lutheran

September 19, 2018

Ambulances were diverted from Lutheran Hospital for several hours Tuesday afternoon while its network rebooted computers and phones following an attempted hacking, an official said.

Geoff Thomas, Lutheran Health Network spokesman, said the network’s information technology staff “successfully stopped a virus from infecting its local network.” As a precaution, he said in an email, all phones and computers were shut down.

Lutheran Hospital resumed normal operations a little before 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Thomas said the incident was unrelated to an email sent to staff Friday by CEO Mike Poore. In that message, Poore said Lutheran Health Network “facilities have been experiencing stability issues with (the) IT network.”

“This instability was caused by a routine internal security update, not a virus. We have numerous local and national resources working to ensure the IT network remains stable,” he wrote.

Poore went on to say that Kosciusko and Dukes hospitals would wait to go live on the network-wide Cerner electronic medical records platform until “the sudden and unexpected disruption” to Lutheran’s IT network was resolved.

Some Lutheran network staff previously expressed concern about parent company Community Health System’s delay in updating Lutheran’s software. McKesson, which made the system Lutheran’s network had used, retired that software, neither selling nor servicing it anymore.

CHS planned to invest almost $90 million in a replacement system made by Cerner and chosen by Lutheran’s leaders, corporate spokeswoman Tomi Galen said in June 2017. At that time, she expected the Cerner system would be up and running in February 2018.

Poore told employees last week the network’s IT staff would work with Cerner to set a new date for taking the system live at Kosciusko and Dukes hospitals.

“Everyone involved wants to ensure the remaining implementations go as successfully as it did in Bluffton last month,” Poore said. “The best path forward to a successful conversion is to make certain to the best of our ability that this disruption is fully resolved.”

Thomas said the previous disruption Poore described is not connected to the latest issue.

Tuesday’s computer system issue was related to a virus, which was stopped before it infected the network, Thomas said.

According to the FBI’s Cyber Division, “billions of dollars are lost every year repairing systems” hit by cyber attacks.

The hackers, who send viruses as email attachments or infiltrate systems by other means, include computer geeks, criminal organizations, business competitors and foreign governments, according to the FBI’s website.

Hospitals, school districts, law enforcement agencies and others increasingly have been targeted by hackers who lock their files until a ransom is paid.

“The inability to access the important data these kinds of organizations keep can be catastrophic in terms of the loss of sensitive or proprietary information, the disruption to regular operations, financial losses incurred to restore systems and files, and the potential harm to an organization’s reputation,” the FBI states.

Lutheran Hospital was the only one in Lutheran Health Network that diverted some patients to other hospitals on Tuesday, Thomas said. The hospital’s diversion status was reassessed hourly until all computers were back online.

Although emergency medical transports were diverted to other hospitals, Lutheran Hospital remained open, and walk in-patients were provided “the needed level of care,” Thomas said.

Elective procedures scheduled for Tuesday afternoon were rescheduled when possible.

sslater@jg.net

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