Hospital CEOs looking for no ransom payment legislation

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A call for help to various levels of government from CEOs at five Southwestern Ontario hospitals impacted by a ransomware attack.

The cyberattack began back on October 23, impacting services at Windsor Regional Hospital, Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, Erie Shores Healthcare in Leamington, Bluewater Health in Sarnia, and Chatham-Kent Health Alliance. 

Windsor Regional Hospital President and CEO David Musyj says they were dealing with a different type of criminal, and the last thing you want to do is poke the bear.  

Concerns shared with the CEO's by experts in situations like these is why they decided against paying the ransom, but Musyj says they're looking for action.

"What we do hope is for governments to mandate that no ransom payment position. This was recently endorsed by Canada, and 49 other countries, as part of the International Counter Ransomware Initiative. Paying ransom only perpetuates this issue from reoccurring to others, and feeds this monster."

Musyj says they did take a serious look at the issue of the ransom payment, but there were a number of reasons why they opted against it.

"First, you're negotiating with criminals. Second, we had no assurance what they promised they could deliver. In fact our experts indicated they could not deliver on their promise to completely erase the data they absconded with. Third, and I quote the deputy national security advisor in the United States, she states as long as there's money flowing to ransomware criminals this is a problem that will continue to grow," he said.

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Vice President of External Affairs at Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare Bill Marra speaks with reporters after a city council meeting on March 4, 2019 (Photo by AM800's Zander Broeckel)

President and CEO of Hotel Dieu Grace Hospital Bill Mara says this is something that needs to have a national strategy to protect all entities.

"This was one of the most difficult and challenging circumstances that I think we found ourselves in. Working with these four individuals has been a privilege, but it's been tough," he continued. "Because we were challenging each other, to ensure that whatever we did, we were feeling comfortable and confident that we could stand up in front of the public and answer that we did the right thing for the right reasons."

Marra says it was a very distressing situation on a moral level, but he agrees with Musyj that they made the right decision not to pay.

"There are more reasons than not to not pay ransom. These are criminals, it was a criminal syndicate that victimized everyone in southwestern Ontario. But we did consider all options, and clearly we chose the right one as has been endorsed by a number of regulatory, legal and government officials throughout the process."

As AM800 reported on Friday, things are starting to get back up and running at the impacted hospitals, with curative radiation treatments now back to full capacity at the Windsor Regional Cancer Centre.