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Mitrano reminds of cybersecurity threat after pair of local ransomware attacks

The FBI calls ransomware attacks common, but defending oneself from them is among top concerns of businesses across the board.

While FBI officials did not comment this week on recent attacks against Olean Medical Group and the Seneca Nation Health System, which prompted a response from 23rd Congressional District Candidate Tracy Mitrano – the ransomware attack itself isn’t unique for the region.

In 2018, Finger Lakes Health was targeted in a similar attack – prompting those who worked at FLH’s facilities to use pen-and-paper record-keeping techniques as systems were restored.

In that case, the system was restored when Finger Lakes Health paid the ransom.

Ransomware is a type of malicious software designed to block access to computer systems while demanding large payments to release the information.

On Monday, Olean Medical Group reported that its computer system was subject to a ransomware attack seeking an unreported amount of money to unlock. The 200 employees have shifted to a pen-and-paper record keeping system as a new computer system is developed, officials reported, and no patient information — for a patient population of 40,000 — was accessed in the attack.

Similarly, Seneca Nation Health System also reported its computer system had failed, also noting that no patient information was compromised.

Mitrano, a cybersecurity expert, says attacks like this are preventable if Congress takes the right steps.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has reported about 4,000 daily attacks since early 2016. Hackers have thrown municipal services into disarray in Atlanta and Baltimore. In 2017, Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) suffered an attack from hackers demanding $30,000. ECMC refused, but the attack cost some $10 million in lost revenue and expenses related to overhauling its computer systems and staff overtime.

“This incident demonstrates that cybersecurity is not only a national security issue, it affects our local economy and health care,” Mitrano said in the press release. “Congress must pay attention to these issues and not leave them up to either the technology experts or the criminals, because everyone else—citizens and patients—loses in the process.”

Mitrano said cybersecurity concerns were among the main reasons for her second run. She has worked and consulted on the writing and adoption of IT and cybersecurity policies at organizations such as Cornell University and the University of Massachusetts.

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