A hospital in Germany was the target of a severe ransomware attack in early September, which resulted in "extensive IT failure," preventing one patient from receiving urgent care, marking a rare instance in which ransomware directly contributed to a death.
"There is currently an extensive IT failure at the University Hospital Düsseldorf (UKD)," UKD hospital officials said in a statement on Sept. 11. "This means, among other things, that the clinic can only be reached to a limited extent – both by telephone and by email. Planned and outpatient treatments will also not take place and will be postponed. Patients are therefore asked not to visit the UKD – even if an appointment has been made."
According to hospital officials, the ransomware attack took place on Sept. 11 and led to a significant failure of IT systems and databases.
"In addition, the clinic cannot be reached by email," the statement read. "Except for a few extensions, the telephone system is already back in operation. The care of patients who are already being treated as inpatients at the UKD is still guaranteed."
The consequence of the outage forced hospital officials to shift patients to other medical facilities and postponed operations. One death was attributed to the hack after a woman in desperate need of urgent care was rerouted to another hospital in the metro area for treatment. She was transported 20 miles to a hospital in Wuppertal, said RT News, with doctors indicating the delay in treatment was fatal. As a result, local police have opened up a homicide investigation in connection with the incident.
RT also notes the ransomware encrypted 30 serves at the hospital, holding much of its IT systems and databases hostage. Hospital officials said the ransomware did not come with explicit instructions to wire money or cryptocurrency but instead had instructions on contacting the hackers.
Systems were being "gradually restored and that it doesn't believe that any of the affected data will be irretrievably lost," RT said.
The attack is the first reported death from ransomware. Hospitals have often been targeted by hackers because critical IT systems and databases of these facilities increase the probability the victims will pay their extortionists.
While hospitals are often the target, entire municipalities have been hit with aggressive ransomware attacks. We noted in 2019, "coordinated" ransomware attacks hit at least 23 cities in Texas.
A cryptocurrency ransomware paralyzed the city of Baltimore as hackers disabled critical communication networks last year.
In 2018, a small Florida city called Lake City paid ransomware extortionists around $462,000 to unlock critical IT networks.
Even with all the technology available to hospitals and municipalities, hackers continue to penetrate critical systems and extort millions of dollars per year.