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UPDATE 1-Universal Health tells staff its corporate network remains offline

Tue, 29th Sep 2020 18:37

(Adds comment from UHS employee)

By Raphael Satter

WASHINGTON, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Hospital chain Universal
Health Services' network remains offline on Tuesday, two
days after the company fell prey to an apparent ransomware
attack, it told employees via text.

On Monday the operator of about 400 hospitals and care
centers across the United States and the United Kingdom,
announced in a statement it was dealing with an "IT security
issue."

UHS has provided no details, but experts said the outage had
the hallmarks of ransomware, a breed of malicious software that
locks users out of their computers until a digital payment is
made.

The text message seen by Reuters said "the corporate network
remains offline" and provided no timetable for when computer
access would be restored. It instructed some employees to
"please continue to work remotely using alternative
communication channels."

At UHS' Cedar Hills Hospital outside Portland, Oregon, the
outage means that new prescriptions are not being issued and
psychiatric patients are having trouble getting their medication
on time, one employee said, noting that some were agitated and
shouting at nurses.

"In a psych ward it's very problematic," the employee said
on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak
to the media. "Psychiatric patients need their medication. It
causes a lot of tension and stress."

In a statement, UHS said that while "this matter may result
in temporary disruptions to certain aspects of our clinical and
financial operations," patient care "continues to be delivered
safely and effectively."

The statement was forwarded to Reuters by a UHS spokeswoman
using her personal email address. Messages seeking further
detail were not immediately returned; emails sent to her
professional account were returned as undeliverable.
(Reporting by Raphael Satter; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and
Richard Chang)

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