On Wednesday, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center CEO Allen Stefanek admitted that the 434-bed short-term acute care hospital paid 40 bitcoins, worth $16,664 dollars, to a hacker who penetrated and disabled its computer network on February 5.
Stefanek released a statement acknowledging that the hacker would only relinquish control of the hospital’s computer systems if the money was paid, and so the money was paid immediately to protect patients and records at the hospital.
He asserted, “The malware locks systems by encrypting files and demanding ransom to obtain the decryption key. The quickest and most efficient way to restore our systems and administrative functions was to pay the ransom and obtain the decryption key. In the best interest of restoring normal operations, we did this,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
Stefanek added that computer experts and law enforcement were immediately informed of the problem; stating that by February 15, the hospital’s network was in full operation mode.
Hacking computers and demanding financial compensation is often referred to as “ransomware.”
FBI Special Agent Thomas Grasso, who fights malicious software, including “ransomware,” said the Bitcoins are becoming the preferred way hackers collect ransoms because they are hard to trace. Symantec, the maker of antivirus software, estimated that in 2013, the number of attacks each month rose from 100,000 in January to 600,000 in December, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Intel Corp.’s McAfee Labs said 3% of computer users with infected machines pay a ransom.