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Ascension Healthcare Network Faces Cybersecurity Incident, Prompting Concerns for Patient Safety

Ascension Healthcare Network, a leading nonprofit and Catholic health system with 140 hospitals nationwide, including 14 in the Chicago area, announced on Wednesday that its clinical operations have been disrupted due to a cyber security event.

The organization responded swiftly upon discovering "unusual activity on select technology network systems" on Wednesday, initiating immediate remediation efforts. However, access to some systems has been interrupted as a result.

In a statement, Ascension assured the public that patient care delivery continues to be a top priority despite the disruption. "Our care teams are trained for these kinds of disruptions and have initiated procedures to ensure patient care delivery continues to be safe and as minimally impacted as possible," the statement read.

However, the full extent and duration of the disruption are still being assessed, raising concerns about the impact on patient care. "There has been a disruption to clinical operations, and we continue to assess the impact and duration of the disruption," Ascension stated.

Commenting on the incident, Paul Keener, a cybersecurity strategist at GuidePoint Security, highlighted the vulnerability of healthcare organizations to cyberattacks. "Hospitals are some of the most connected places in the world," Keener said, underscoring the severity of the situation.

Ascension has enlisted the expertise of cybersecurity firm Mandiant Solutions to conduct a thorough investigation into the incident and has notified relevant authorities. The organization has also advised its business partners to temporarily suspend their connection to the Ascension system.

Mark Manglicmot, Senior Vice President of Security Services at Arctic Wolf, emphasized the broader implications of cyberattacks on healthcare organizations. "The Ascension Healthcare incident is another reminder that healthcare organizations are an incredibly hot target," said Manglicmot. "Attacks on their infrastructure have consequences far beyond a ransom demand."

Manglicmot stressed the importance of addressing vulnerabilities and implementing robust security measures to safeguard patient health and safety. "Organizations struggle to shore up all the weaknesses here, putting patient health and safety at risk," he cautioned.

The incident at Ascension Healthcare follows a string of cyberattacks targeting healthcare providers across the United States, raising concerns about the security of sensitive patient data and critical medical technology.

As Ascension works to mitigate the impact of the cyber incident, the healthcare industry faces mounting pressure to bolster cybersecurity defenses and protect patient welfare in an increasingly hostile digital landscape.

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