Patients who regularly go to the McLaren and Sparrow hospitals for their checkups had to contend with bad news. They received letters from the hospital management which revealed the possibility of their personal information to be in the wrong hands—as cybercriminals gained access to the hospital’s records.
While at the first glance, you may think that the IT servers of the hospitals were invaded and a ransomware strain encrypted their files. However, this was not the case. Instead the actual attack was carried out against WSG (Wolverine Solutions Group), a medical billing company known to provide services to hundreds of clients. The breach then spread out to compromise the data of several clients.
Soon, some patients sent their images to news outlet amidst the frenzy which threatened thousands of patients. These letters were directed towards only those patients who were registered at both of the hospitals.
Darryl English, the Wolverine Solutions Group President, explained that in September 2018, the organization suffered a huge setback as a ransomware infiltrated its network. As a consequence, a few of its servers got encrypted. Soon, the management found out that the affected servers store the personal health information (PHI) of their patients. The data included social security numbers, addresses, clinical, and insurance data of the patients which is feared to have been exposed to the cybercriminals.
However, Mr. English clarified that there is no credible evidence which can prove that this information was actually read by the hackers. He explained that a thorough forensic investigation was carried out. After the end of the investigation, there were no results, evidence, or piece of information which can raise any doubts on the misuse of the data or the possibility of a data theft. Still, the patients were notified as a security measure in case a complication arises in future.
Due to the on-going nature of the investigation, Mr. English was tight-lipped and could not divulge more details associated with the cyberattack like how exactly did the ransomware enter their network or who can be held responsible for the whole fiasco.
Troy Baker—who serves as a manager at Better Business Bureau—revealed that there was a reason behind the surge in the ransomware attacks which are targeted at medical institutions and hospitals. According to Baker, the cybercriminals know that they can get their hands on valuable sensitive data in such cases and consequently can earn a greater amount of money or ransom in comparison to attacks in other industries through blackmail.