Cybersecurity is a Local Issue: Protecting Our Rural Hospitals and Healthcare Systems



     Image Source: HIMSS  

Cybersecurity is a Local Issue: Protecting Our Rural Hospitals and Healthcare Systems

Cyberwarfare poses a serious threat to our national security and to the integrity of our elections, but it is also a critical economic, business, and health care issue that affects us at the local level every day. This week, cyberattacks brought two health care systems in our district to their knees: the Olean Medical Group, serving communities in Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties, and The Seneca Nation Health System, serving Native American communities in the Allegany and Cattaraugus Territories. 

Cyberattacks and Rural Hospitals

The smaller health centers and rural hospitals that provide the majority of our health care in the district carry the highest risk for cyberattacks. As the Health Care Industry Cybersecurity Taskforce reported in 2017, these organizations often lack the resources to adequately track threats and to act quickly when they occur [report]. Nationwide, ransomware attacks and data breaches are on the rise in the health care sector. 


Image Source:  HIPAA Journal

Patient Headaches: The Short-term Effects of a Cyberattack

The immediate effect of these attacks are longer wait times for patients. OMG and SNHS have both lost access to their computer systems, meaning that doctors and nurses no longer have access to their patients’ medical histories, medication lists, or insurance information. Patients have been asked to bring all of this information along with them to their medical appointments. Doctors and nurses have returned to recording information with paper and pen as they wait for their computer systems to be rebuilt. [Source: Olean Times Herald]

Crippling Cost: The Long-term Effects

Cyberattacks burden local governments, businesses, and organizations with the enormous cost of rebuilding compromised computer systems. 

  • In 2017, a cyberattack cost the Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo $10 million in lost revenue, staff overtime, and the cost of rebuilding their computer system. [Source]
  • The Pennsylvania State Democratic Caucus paid $703,697 in March of 2017 to rebuild their IT system after a ransomware attack. 
  • The City of Atlanta was saddled with a $17 million bill after government computers were infected with ransomware in 2018.
  • The Colorado Department of Transportation paid $15 million after a similar attack in 2018.
  • The May 7, 2019 attack on the city of Baltimore is expected to cost the city upwards of $18 million. [Source]
  • When Mecklenburg County, NC was attacked in December 2017, residents could no longer apply for jobs online or register their children for Park and Rec sponsored activities. The county systems were frozen for more than a month, including the Sheriff’s Office, Public Health, and the the Library. The attack cost the county $1 million. [Source]

Congress Must Act to Protect Our Cybersecurity

Before entering politics, as a cybersecurity policy specialist, I called upon Congress to address issues related to national security, economic and business readiness related to safety on the internet. I authored the policy on Ransomware for the University of Massachusetts System and was part of the team that addresses cybersecurity incidents and threats. I built a cybersecurity program for UMass Amherst. 

Now, as a candidate for Congress, I hope to represent this district, our colleges and universities, our business and medical centers, in bringing these issues into national focus. We need public-private partnerships to work together on incident readiness and response. Industry must be united with government to address cybercrime at all levels. And when it comes to nation-state attacks, it is a matter of national security to protect our people, government, intellectual property, medical and economic health. 

Join me in the campaign to get the quality of representation that reflects the needs of the people and the future of this district. 




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