'WRH closely examined whether to pay ransom demand': Musyj on hospital ransomware attack


The President and CEO of Windsor Regional Hospital has spoken out regarding the data that had been stolen during a ransomware attack at local hospitals. 

David Musyj commented on the cyberattack during the Windsor Regional Hospital Board of Directors meeting held on Thursday evening. 

Musyj stated during the meeting that while the hospital had considered paying the ransom, the hospital was advised that payment would not speed up restoration, and that there would be no guarantee that those responsible for the cyberattack wouldn't release patient information even if they paid.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, it stated that the hospital is also aligned in the position with the governments of 50 nations, including Canada, who have recently pledged to never pay ransom to cybercriminals.

As you've heard on AM800 News, Bluewater Health, Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, Erie Shores HealthCare, Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare and Windsor Regional Hospital, and the shared service provider TransForm Shared Service Organization, were recently the victims of a ransomware attack that impacted operations as well as certain patient, employee and professional staff data.

As of Thursday, the data connected to the attack at five hospitals across southwestern Ontario, including three in Windsor-Essex, has been published online.

Musyj says the "bad actors" have already published some of the data they stole. 

"They did this because we would not succumb to their ransom demands. We closely examined whether to pay, but we knew, and our experts in law enforcement all confirmed that we cannot trust the promise of a criminal to delete this information. We learned that payment would not speed up the safe restoration of our network. And so, we did not pay."

He says this cyberattack is not from one person in their basement on a computer. 

"The perpetrators are a sophisticated web of people who extort the health care sector. They target us while we're caring for the most critically ill. They attack hospitals while we are emerging from a worldwide pandemic. We are not the first health care system to be struck by these bandits, and we will not be the last."

He says there are leading experts helping to restore the system safely.

"This is not something you can do overnight. This will take time, this will take weeks. We are hopeful that over the next few weeks we'll be able to bring back our clinical applications one-by-one. Our collective focus is on cancer patients, and getting those systems up quickly, but safely. We are making substantial progress."

Musyj adds no ambulatory surgical procedures were delayed because of the cyberattack, and that scheduled surgeries are now nearly back to 100 per cent. 

He adds there has been substantial progress on curative radiation treatments to be able to start back safely. 

The ransomware attack started Oct. 23 and was originally called a "service interruption."

Hospital officials are working with law enforcement - including local police departments, Ontario Provincial Police, INTERPOL and FBI - and relevant regulatory organizations including the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner to get services returned to normal.