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NRC Health Ransomware Attack Prompts Patient Data Concerns

The organization, which sells patient administration tools to hospitals, could not confirm whether patient data was accessed.

A Feb. 11 ransomware attack targeting NRC Health has driven concerns about the security of patient data stored on the organization’s servers. NRC Health manages patient survey systems and works with 75% of the 200 largest hospital chains in the United States, CNBC reports.

When it learned of the attack, NRC Health shut down its systems and has since been working to restore them, said chief information officer Paul Cooper in a statement. An email to its hospital clients explained how it took its entire environment offline, including client-facing reporting portals. The company also notified the FBI and launched an investigation into the attack.

The incident has caused concern due to the vast amount of patient information NRC Health has on its servers. Its customers include 9,000 healthcare institutions including Cedars Sinai and Jefferson Health, and it stores data from more than 25 million healthcare consumers each year. Patient survey data isn’t only used for marketing; regulators use this information to determine how much hospitals are reimbursed and how much their executives are paid, the report states.

So far there is no indication of whether the attackers were able to view or steal confidential or patient data. If they were, NRC’s customers will have to alert their patients to the attack.

Ransomware, and cyberattacks in general, are increasingly taking aim at the healthcare industry due to its vast stores of vauable data. Attacks against healthcare targets jumped 60% in the first nine months of 2019 alone, with criminals favoring Emotet and Trickbot in their arsenals. Since 2016, ransomware has cost US healthcare organizations more than $157 million – and that’s only counting the incidents that affected more than 500 people.

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