FirstHealth of the Carolinas announced that it shut down its computer network last week after a threat from a new version of the WannaCry malware virus, and the system is continuing to operate on standard downtime procedures.
FirstHealth, based in Pinehurst, North Carolina, is a health system that operates four hospitals and dozens of medical clinics serving 15 counties in the mid-Carolinas. The health system began to experience network downtime last Tuesday, October 17, which it traced to a malware attack, according to an announcement posted to the organization’s website Oct. 20.
“FirstHealth’s information system team immediately identified the threat and implemented security protocols, including shut down of the information system network. At that time, staff initiated standard downtime procedures. Out of an abundance of caution, FirstHealth remains on downtime, as the information system team validates that all systems and devices have been tested and cleared of any threat,” the organization said in the online statement.
As of Friday, the system was still experiencing downtime. A post on FirstHealth’s Facebook page on Oct. 24 reported that the system is still operating under standard downtime procedures. Health system officials said the network will be fully restored once it validates that all systems and devices have been tested and cleared of any threat.
FirstHealth has more than 4,000 devices and more than 100 physical locations connected to its network and each is being thoroughly checked to ensure no virus risk, the health system said.
“Because of the quick response by the Information System security team, the virus did not reach any patient information, operational information or databases. Patient information has not been compromised. At this time, it appears that no damage has occurred to the network or devices,” the health system stated.
Health system officials have identified the malware as a new form of the WannaCry virus, and said that an anti-virus patch has been developed specifically for this virus and is being implemented throughout the FirstHealth system. “This patch will be added to anti-virus software available for others in the industry to apply to their systems,” the health system said.
On May 12, hospitals throughout the U.K. were hit with a massive ransomware attack and shut down several dozen regional health authorities within the National Health Service (NHS). According to media reports, the WannaCry ransomware virus impacted organizations across 150 countries.
FirstHealth officials stated in the announcement that the malware attack “was in no way related to our Epic system.” “Access to Epic, like all our other systems was blocked in order to prevent the virus from impacting that system. FirstHealth MyChart is accessible. However, the information has not been updated since the downtime event,” the health system said.
Health system officials said the organization is experiencing some delays and appointment cancellations as a result of the downtime event, but that does not apply to critical and emergent needs. “Our team is working tirelessly to remediate the virus and get our system back up to be fully operational,” the organization said. Updates on the organization’s progress will be available on FirstHealth’s website and social media pages.