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Hospitals told to print out patients' medical records

Israel on heightened alert after hospital hit with ransomware attack

Hillel Yaffe resorts to logging admissions with pen and paper while being unable to conduct non-urgent procedures; officials believe cyberattack was not backed by an enemy state

Hospital staff at Hillel Yaffe Medical Center log patient details with pen and paper, following a ransomware cyberattack, October 13, 2021. (Hillel Yaffe Medical Center)
Hospital staff at Hillel Yaffe Medical Center log patient details with pen and paper, following a ransomware cyberattack, October 13, 2021. (Hillel Yaffe Medical Center)

After a ransomware cyberattack targeted the Hillel Yaffe Medical Center in Hadera Wednesday, Israel’s National Cyber Directorate said there were heightened fears of other hospitals being targeted.

The directorate also issued a general warning to Israeli businesses to be aware of potential cyberattacks, as the country faces an uptick in hacking attempts.

Separately, the Health Ministry, in a letter to hospitals around the country, urged them to print out patients’ medical files amid the fear of more cyberattacks.

On Wednesday morning, Hillel Yaffe said it had received no advance warning of the attack on its computer systems. Urgent medical services at the hospital were continuing as usual as it switched to alternate systems.

Mickey Dudkiewicz, the director of the hospital, told Channel 12 news that the hackers didn’t ask for a specific sum of money to return the systems to operation.

With computer systems down, hospital staff resorted to logging admissions with pen and paper. Heavy delays in treatment were also caused due to doctors having to constantly walk physically between departments in order to review test results.

Mickey Dudkiewicz, director of Hadera’s Hillel Yaffe Medical Center, delivers a statement following a randsomware cyberattack, October 13, 2021. (Hillel Yaffe Medical Center)

With patients being turned away, the Laniado Hospital in Netanya said it was coordinating with the Magen David Adom ambulance service and was ready to receive those who needed treatment that was not available at Hillel Yaffe due to the attack.

Hillel Yaffe serves hundreds of thousands of people.

The hack was still affecting systems in the evening hours of Wednesday.

Health Ministry officials told Kan news that the hackers were likely only motivated by financial gain, and there was no indication of it being a “security-related” attack by an enemy state or otherwise.

Numerous suspected Iranian cyberattacks on Israel were reported in recent years, including one that targeted its water infrastructure in 2020. Israel and Iran have been engaged in a years-long shadow war, with Israel allegedly directing most of its efforts — including multiple suspected cyberattacks — at sabotaging the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

Channel 12 reported that officials fear Iranian hackers could in the future target hospitals in a way that would cause harm to patients.

Hospital staff at Hillel Yaffe Medical Center log patient details with pen and paper, following a randsomware cyberattack, October 13, 2021. (Hillel Yaffe Medical Center)

Last month, Israeli cybersecurity firm Check Point reported that Israeli institutions are targeted with about twice as many cyberattacks as the average in other countries around the world, including the country’s health sector, which experiences an average of 1,443 attacks a week.

The most targeted sectors around the world, including Israel, are education and research, followed by government and security organizations, and then health institutions, Check Point said.

The report found that, on average, one in every 60 Israeli organizations or firms is targeted every week with ransomware attacks, an increase of 30 percent over the rate in 2020.

Stuart Winer and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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