A hospital in Hollywood was compelled to give hackers - who rendered its network inoperable - $17,000 as ransom to regain control of its computer systems.

On Feb. 5, the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles, California became the victim of a malware attack that crippled its computer systems by encrypting files. The cyberattack prevented the hospital staff from using the systems, reveals the hospital's CEO Allen Stefanek in a memo.

The hospital alerted law enforcement immediately and the help of computer experts was enlisted to bring the systems back online and determine the cause. Apparently, this did not help as the hospital eventually succumbed to the hackers' demands in a bid to obtain the decryption key.

"The malware locks systems by encrypting files and demanding ransom to obtain the decryption key. 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," says Stefanek.

Stefanek lets on that hackers demanded a payment of 40 Bitcoins, which translates to nearly $17,000. He also clarifies that previous reports saying the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center paid $3.4 million or nearly 9,000 Bitcoins were incorrect.

The hospital eventually managed to restore the e-medical record system by Monday, Feb. 15, nearly 10 days after the incident. It is not known how the hackers managed to intrude into the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center's computer network.

The CEO also discloses that no proof existed that the information of any employee or patient was compromised due to the ransomware attack. The hospital's systems were completely restored by Monday.

"All systems currently in use were cleared of the malware and thoroughly tested," says Stefanek.

Ransomware has become a popular style of cyberattack in recent times, in which hackers target individuals, organizations or companies. The victim unfortunately has only two choices in such a situation - to give in to the demands of the hackers and pay the demanded ransom, or lose access to important data and files permanently.

The malware used in such attacks to encrypt files is difficult to guard against. Moreover, in maximum cases, the encryption cannot be decoded. The best alternative to ward off such threats is to have offline data as well, or segregated backups of data.

The L.A. Police Department and the FBI are working in tandem to locate the hacker or hackers responsible for the attack. Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center is also in consultation with its "team of experts to understand more about this event."

Photo: Davide Restivo | Flickr

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