‘Mafia-like groups’ behind hospital cyberattacks, French digital minister says

edited February 2021 in Other Political Debate

NICE, FRANCE — “Mafia-like groups” are likely behind a series of recent ransomware attacks targeting French hospitals, the country’s Digital Affairs Minister Cédric O said today.

Asked on France 2 about recent attacks that paralyzed some hospitals’ IT systems, O said those behind them “were not, in all likelihood, foreign powers, but mafia-life groups, often but not exclusively from Eastern European countries, looking for money.”

The Dax hospital in southwestern France was hit by a ransomware attack on February 9, which encrypted its data and forced staff to resort to using pen and paper. On February 15, a similar attack struck a hospital in Villefranche-sur-Saône, near Lyon. The attacks used Ryuk ransomware, which is designed to lock computer systems, with hackers demanding a ransom in return for unlocking them.

French President Emmanuel Macron last week pledged to boost support for the cybersecurity industry in response to the attacks.

In his interview, O said there are currently no indications any data was stolen during the attacks, but “very concrete and serious things happened.” The hospitals’ emergency wards were forced to stop accepting new patients and their medical imaging services and phone networks went down.

The digital minister also commented on another health care-related cybersecurity incident: the leakage of patient data from a chain of biomedical labs, affecting 500,000 patients. The company and France’s data protection authority have been in contact, but the company does not appear to have notified patients, O said.

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