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Hospital chain targeted in possibly one of the largest cyberattacks on US medical systems: report

Hospital chain targeted in possibly one of the largest cyberattacks on US medical systems: report
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Universal Health Services (UHS), a large hospital chain, has reportedly been targeted by hackers in what may be one of the nation’s largest cyberattacks on a medical system to date.

NBC News reported Monday that computer systems began to crash over the weekend across different locations operated by UHS, which has roughly 400 facilities across the U.S., Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom and employs 90,000 employees, according to its website. 

One source told NBC News that the breach appears to be a ransomware attack, where hackers use malicious software to lock up computer networks and then demand payment to return access to these systems.

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UHS in a statement described the matter as an "IT security issue" and noted its facilities are "currently offline."

"We implement extensive IT security protocols and are working diligently with our IT security partners to restore IT operations as quickly as possible. In the meantime, our facilities are using their established back-up processes including offline documentation methods. Patient care continues to be delivered safely and effectively," the statement reads.

It added that it does not appear that data of patients or employees "have been accessed, copied or misused."

The Hill reported earlier this year that hospitals are increasingly bracing for such attacks, particularly with health care facilities being seen as easy prey amid a surge in patients and critical equipment shortages stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

Nurses, speaking to NBC across various UHS U.S. locations, described how the computers began failing and shutting off over the weekend, leaving medical staff to instead turn to pens and pads. And while the medical professionals back up their systems daily, it isn’t done until the end of the day so they were operating on information last saved from Friday, according to the report. 

Still, while they reportedly still have access to patients’ charts and medication information in paper form, one nurse in Arizona told NBC News that most of their medical system is done online, which has made work even more difficult.

—Updated at 4:39 p.m.