Western NY hospital recounts ransomware experience as SMC deals with malware attack

Updated: Jul. 28, 2020 at 2:06 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - The investigation at Samaritan Medical Center shows its computers were hit by malware. No further information is available from the hospital, but we spoke with another hospital, which knows the troubles of a malware attack all too well.

Computers are still down at Watertown's Samaritan Medical Center, but the hospital and its clinics are taking patients.

A spokesperson says the system is believed to have been attacked by malware.

Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo was attacked by ransom malware in 2017.

"Staff saw these messages appear on the desktop computers telling them that, in fact, their system had been interfered with and that in order to reactivate it we would have to pay a ransom," said Peter Cutler, vice president of communications and external affairs, Erie County Medical Center.

That ransom was thousands of dollars in bitcoin currency. If not paid, the hospital wouldn't be to able access records. But hospital officials there decided to not give in to what they call a terroristic attack.

"It affected us significantly to the extent that we didn't have access to the information we would ordinary have on a everyday basis," said Cutler.

Instead, the hospital used its backup system for records and rebuilt the computer system, which took almost a year and cost about $10 million. It was covered by insurance. The hospital's $2 million policy had been updated to $10 million just a few months before.

"That was incredibly smart of them to do that. We didn't know. Who could have known," said Cutler.

Now Samartian Medical Center is facing the unknown; the investigation into that attack is ongoing.

Right now, the hospital is using pen, paper, and other systems. Officials aren’t sure when their computers will be up and running.

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