Computer virus forces hospitals to shut down systems and cancel operations

computer virus

A computer virus attack forced three hospitals to shutdown their computer systems and go completely offline. This caused the cancellation of all routine operations and outpatient appointments.

A “major incident” was reported by both the Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust. The cause was listed as a “computer virus” which infected its electronic systems this pas Sunday, 30 October 2016. To rid themselves of the virus attack, the hospital made the choice to take all of its computer offline. This allowed each computer and server to be cleaned of the virus.

Dr. Karen Dundersale, the chief executive of the Goole NHS Foundation Trust said, ” virus infected our electronic systems [on Sunday] and we have taken the decision, following expert advice, to shut down the majority of our systems so we can isolate and destroy it.” The BBC reports that this led both hospitals to completely cancel all operations. As of now, both hospitals  have yet to restore full operations to all departments.

Because of the attack, all outpatient appointments and diagnostic procedures that were scheduled at the infected hospitals on Monday and Tuesday were forced to be cancelled.  Medical emergencies such as  major trauma and women in high-risk labor were being diverted to neighboring hospitals.

At this time, we don’t have any information on the type of virus or malware that was used in the attack. We also don’t have any information on how it entered the internal systems of the hospitals. However, as the hospitals were both using a shared system, it was possible for both to be infected.

Hospitals becoming targets of virus attacks

This is similar to an incident in March of 2016 where MedStar Health Inc, a large hospital chain in the Washington DC area, was also forced offline. This case was more about ransomware and the hospital was forced to pay the attackers $17,000. But the end result was that attacks were able to force a hospital chain completely offline.They were denied access to their patient charts and couldn’t access anything including lab results, x-rays, or other procedures results.

Hospitals have become hot targets for hackers because they haven’t kept up with the times when it comes to security. While spending on technology has increased, especially in the area of electronic medical records, security has taken a back seat.

Steps to protect your practice or business from virus attacks

These types of attacks show just how vulnerable a hospital or doctor’s office is. When they are knocked offline and are denied access to medical records, that has massive implications. No longer is it just a computer system issue, lost revenues or time, now its people’s lives.

You can greatly reduce the chances of these types of attacks by controlling the main entry points of these types of attacks. They are:

  • Email phishing attacks – can be greatly reduced by educating employees and by using a strong spam filters
  • Infected USB drives – having anti-malware software installed that scans in real time can reduce this risk
  • Browsing unsafe sites or clicking on infected ads – anti-malware software usually also includes web surfing protection. But you can also obtain lists of dangerous sites and configure your firewall to block access to these types of sites or to filter malicious advertisements.

If you need help with any of these options for your own practice or business, please contact Iron Comet at 770-506-4383 or email us at


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