Hospital pays bitcoin ransom after malware attack

As soon as the hospital identified the attack, it called in investigators from the Los Angeles police department, Federal Bureau of Investigation and a private cyber forensics firm.

The attack interfered with hospital staff's ability to communicate electronically by locking them out with an encryption. Federal Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said Wednesday that the agency is investigating such a plot at the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center.

A Los Angeles hospital has handed more than 40 bitcoins in ransom - approximately $17,000 - to hackers who took control of its medical records.

"As a provider of critical services, we have to be prepared for a variety of events that could disrupt our everyday operations, from earthquakes to computer events like this one", said Allen Stefanek, CEO of HPMC. "If you've been the victim of a ransomware attack, and you're contemplating paying the ransom, keep in mind that the only reason these thieves keep making these attacks is because people pay them", he said. However, it was left with no option besides paying the ransom. If the ransom is not paid in time, all the data will forever remain encrypted. Symantec, the maker of antivirus software, estimated that in 2013, the number of attacks each month rose from 100,000 in January to 600,000 in December, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

While a hacker may get several hundred dollars to unlock many individual computers, getting $17,000 is a decent payday.

Many ransomware victims pay quietly, or abandon infected machines.

Workers at Hollywood Presbyterian noticed the network problems on February 5, and it became clear there was a malware infiltration that was disabling the network. Law enforcement was immediately notified. Its system was fully functioning again by Monday, 10 days later.

The FBI said it is investigating the incident, but declined to give specific details.

Hospital officials maintain that there is no evidence that patient data was stolen from the network, and Stefanek said that "patient care was not compromised in any way".

Related news