Woman dies after hospital is unable to treat her during crippling ransomware infection, cops launch probe

Extortionware is bad but it never killed anyo... never mind


A woman in Germany died after a ransomware infection prevented her hospital from giving her emergency treatment.

The unnamed patient died en route to a hospital in another city after she was unable to get treatment in Düsseldorf due to the malware affecting computer systems. A manslaughter investigation is now underway against the ransomware's operators, who have yet to be identified.

In their very, very thin defense, the crooks behind the file-scrambling nasty turned over the decryption key to the cops when they were informed they had hit a hospital with their crimeware. Since then, the operators have gone dark. Chances are they are not in Germany and there's not much hope for an arrest and extradition.

University Hospital Düsseldorf said that due to a ransomware attack that has crippled its systems for more than a week, it is unable to take emergency patients. In this case, the woman had to go to another hospital 20 miles away, and did not live through the hour-long wait to see a doctor.

The hospital said it was infected via a vulnerability in one of the software suites it uses, something that should be a very, very loud warning to admins at hospitals around the world: patch everything as soon as you can. The name of the software and the vulnerable versions were not given, though hopefully this info is being disclosed confidentially to other hospitals and clinics.

staffer props head on pile of books as he clicks a mouse and fights sleep

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"According to information from the public prosecutor's office and the Ministry of Justice, the police, in cooperation with external specialists and the clinic's IT specialists, have now identified specific indications of the cause. According to these analyzes, the background to the failure is a hacker attack that exploited a weak point in an application," the hospital said on Thursday via a translator.

"The security vulnerability was found in a commercial add-on software that is customary on the market and distributed worldwide."

Even having the decryption key, it is going to take the hospital some time to get its entire network back up and running. In the meantime, it is not able to take any emergency patients.

"Due to the size of the IT system and the abundance of data, we cannot yet estimate when this process will be completed," said hospital commercial director Ekkehard Zimmer.

"However, we are confident that we will be able to better estimate the time span in the next few days and then be there for our patients again step by step."

Some ransomware slingers have promised not to hit hospitals. In this case, it is claimed the operators did not realize what they had infected. The hospital is affiliated with the University of Düsseldorf, and it is believed the crooks thought they were shutting down the school's network, not the life-saving facilities of a hospital. Hopefully they get a chance to make that argument in front of a German judge. ®

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