US hospitals forced offline by reported Ryuk ransomware attack

Universal Health Services employees have been told IT issues could go on for days

A forlorn doctor in a facemask, looking out the window

Universal Health Services (UHS), one of America's largest healthcare providers, has been hit by an alleged ransomware attack. 

The company's IT networks have been taken offline by what is thought to be another case of Ryuk ransomware. 

Despite being relatively new, Ryuk has quickly built a fearsome reputation for attacks on enterprise-level businesses. It is ransomware that uses encryption to block access to a system until a ransom is paid. 

This strain of malware hit UHS systems on Sunday, according to reports, shutting down its IT networks and forcing its workers to use "offline documentation". UHS provides healthcare for profit at some 400 hospitals and facilities across the US and in the UK.

"The IT network across Universal Health Services facilities is currently offline due to an IT security issue," the organisation said in a statement. "We implement extensive IT security protocols and are working diligently with our IT security partners to restore operations as quickly as possible."

One hospital worker told TechCrunch that their computer screen changed with text that referenced the "shadow universe", which is often the case with Ryuk ransomware attacks.

"Everyone was told to turn off all the computers and not to turn them on again," the unnamed person said. "We were told it will be days before the computers are up again."

It is not immediately known what effect the attack is having on patient care, or how widespread the infection is, but UHS has said that "no patient or employee data appears to have been accessed, copied or otherwise compromised".

Although the exact origin of Ryuk is unknown, it has been linked to a Russian cyber crime group called WizardSpider, which are known to go "big game hunting" - meaning they target larger organisations. 

A number of Spanish organisations were hit by the ransomware earlier in the year, and there are fears it could lead to 'WannaCry' levels of disruption.  

Featured Resources

Choosing a collaboration platform

Eight questions every IT leader should ask

Download now

Performance benchmark: PostgreSQL/ MongoDB

Helping developers choose a database

Download now

Customer service vs. customer experience

Three-step guide to modern customer experience

Download now

Taking a proactive approach to cyber security

A complete guide to penetration testing

Download now

Recommended

How can you protect your business from crypto-ransomware?
Security

How can you protect your business from crypto-ransomware?

20 Apr 2021
HackBoss malware is using Telegram to steal cryptocurrency from other hackers
cryptocurrencies

HackBoss malware is using Telegram to steal cryptocurrency from other hackers

16 Apr 2021
Best ransomware removal tools
ransomware

Best ransomware removal tools

9 Apr 2021
What is hacktivism?
hacking

What is hacktivism?

22 Apr 2021

Most Popular

How to find RAM speed, size and type
Laptops

How to find RAM speed, size and type

8 Apr 2021
Microsoft is submerging servers in boiling liquid to prevent Teams outages
data centres

Microsoft is submerging servers in boiling liquid to prevent Teams outages

7 Apr 2021
REvil threatens to release Apple’s hardware schematics
ransomware

REvil threatens to release Apple’s hardware schematics

21 Apr 2021