Posted by Tom Burt, on

On Wednesday, May 8, 2024, Ascension, one of the largest nonprofit healthcare systems in the United States, fell victim to a suspected cyberattack, causing widespread disruption to clinical operations at its hospitals across the country. The Scarlett Group, a renowned cybersecurity firm, was featured in a News4JAX article, offering valuable insights into the incident and its implications.

For further details on this developing story, please read the full article on News4JAX:

The Incident:
Ascension reported detecting unusual activity on select technology network systems, which they attribute to a "cyber security event." The incident led to phone and computer access being taken offline at some healthcare facilities, requiring medical professionals to resort to manual patient note-taking. The disruption has impacted clinical operations, and Ascension is currently assessing the full extent and duration of the event.

Ascension's Response:
Ascension took swift action upon discovering the suspicious activity, immediately launching an investigation into the incident. As a precautionary measure, access to certain systems has been suspended while the investigation is ongoing. Ascension has enlisted the help of a third-party expert to assist in the investigation and has notified the relevant authorities.

Despite the disruption, Ascension has reassured the public that their care teams are well-prepared to handle such situations. They have implemented procedures to ensure that patient care delivery remains safe and minimally affected.

Insights from The Scarlett Group:
Tyler Chancey, the director of The Scarlett Group, provided expert analysis of the incident to News4JAX. Chancey noted, "Generally, if you see a third-party firm like this engaged, especially called out so early in the process, that would indicate some sort of high-level attack has occurred. It's going to be something pretty major."

Chancey also shed light on why healthcare providers are attractive targets for ransomware attacks. Healthcare organizations hold valuable data and require constant online availability to ensure uninterrupted patient care. Disrupting healthcare systems creates a sense of urgency, motivating immediate response and action to restore critical medical systems.

Potential Data Breach:
Ascension is actively investigating whether any information has been compromised due to the incident. They have committed to notifying and supporting affected individuals in accordance with all relevant regulatory and legal guidelines, should they determine that any sensitive information was exposed.

The Broader Context:
Regrettably, healthcare providers across the United States have been increasingly targeted by ransomware attacks in recent years. These attacks have not only caused significant disruptions to patient care but have also resulted in substantial financial losses for healthcare providers, amounting to millions, if not billions, of dollars.

Ascension's Reach:
Ascension is an extensive health system, encompassing 140 hospitals and 40 senior living facilities across 19 states, including several locations in Northeast Florida. Although local Ascension representatives did not specify any particular impacts in the area, news reports from the Milwaukee region suggest that some Ascension healthcare patients have been turned away, and appointments have been canceled at the affected hospitals.

The suspected cyberattack on Ascension hospitals underscores the growing threat that healthcare providers face in the digital landscape. As cybercriminals continue to evolve their tactics, it is imperative for organizations to prioritize cybersecurity measures and have comprehensive incident response plans in place. The Scarlett Group remains dedicated to assisting organizations in preventing, detecting, and responding to cyber threats, ensuring the protection of critical systems and sensitive data.

At The Scarlett Group, we recognize the importance of maintaining vigilance and proactivity in the face of ever-evolving cyber threats. If you have any concerns about your organization's cybersecurity posture or would like to learn more about our services, please feel free to contact our team of experts.

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