- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 18, 2016

Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles paid a ransom of nearly $17,000 in order to regain control of a computer system that had been compromised in a cyberattack, the hospital’s president and CEO said Wednesday.

Allen Stefanek admitted in a statement that the hospital agreed to send 40 bitcoins — about $16,700 when converted from the digital cryptocurrency to U.S. dollars — after its computers became infected with ransomware, a sophisticated type of malicious software that disables access to data until the affected party pays a fee.

“The malware locks systems by encrypting files and demanding ransom to obtain the decryption key,” Mr. Stefanek said. “The quickest and most efficient way to restore our systems and administrative functions was to pay the ransom and obtain the decryption key. In the best interest of restoring normal operations, we did this.”

The 434-bed hospital declared an “internal emergency” after learning on Feb. 5 that its system had been hacked, and access to hospital computers weren’t fully restored until 10 days after, The Associated Press reported.

No evidence exists to suggest that hackers managed to steal any patient records or employee data during the attack, Mr. Stefanek said.

“Patient care has not been compromised in any way,” he said.

Nevertheless, hospital staffers were forced to use phone lines, fax machines and handwritten notes to exchange information until access to the system was restored after more than a week.

“It’s right there on paper, but it may not be legible,” Dr. Rangasamy Ramanathan, a neonatal-perinatal specialist affiliated with the hospital, told Reuters. “The only problem is doctors’ writing.”

Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI, told the Los Angeles Times that federal authorities are investigating the hack, but declined to discuss any further details. Speaking on condition of anonymity, law enforcement sources told the newspaper that the hospital paid the ransom before approaching authorities.

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