In the latest sign that nothing is off limits for hackers looking to wreak havoc on the nation’s computer systems, Broward Health recently reported the theft of the records of some 1.3 million people. Included in the breach were patient social security numbers, medical histories, and bank account information.
Broward Health is a regional health care provider that services the southeastern portion of Florida. For comparison’s sake, the population of Broward County is about 2 million people, and while not everyone involved in the breach was a resident of Broward County, it can be assumed that a large percentage of the population has been affected.
Unlike recent cyberattacks against healthcare-related targets, the Broward Health breach was limited solely to the theft of personal information and did not target active healthcare infrastructure. “Patient care was not disrupted or impacted at any time during or following this incident,” said Broward Health spokesperson Jennifer Smith.
In the grand scheme of things, Broward Health may have gotten off easy. Cyberattacks, even against healthcare entities, are becoming increasingly aggressive as hacker groups use ransomware to hold hospital computer networks, servers, and in some cases even medical equipment hostage. The systems are not released until a ransom has been paid, but that is not a guarantee that the compromised information has not made it out into the wild.
An Alabama lawsuit filed late last year shows just how far an attack of this kind can go. The victim in the case was an infant and may have been the first U.S.-based fatality due to a ransomware attack. The attack interfered with internal hospital communication systems and prevented key personnel from getting the information they needed to determine that the infant was in distress. By the time the medical team realized that the infant’s umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck, it was too late. The attack that killed the infant is believed to have originated out of Russia and was conducted by a group that has been attacking U.S. healthcare facilities since 2018.