An anonymous hooded male using a tablet computer to represent a cyber criminal. (Photo by: Loop Images/UIG via Getty Images)
Ransomware attacks targeting US cities on the rise
02:59 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

A network of three Alabama hospitals is accepting patients again, more than a week after a ransomware attack crippled its computer systems.

The hospitals began receiving new patients Thursday, after “essential electronic systems related to patient care” were restored, DCH Health System said in a statement. But the company was still working to fully repair “certain nonessential systems,” like email.

“We do not have a timetable for when all systems will be fully optimized,” DCH said.

In a ransomware attack, hackers use malware to infect a computer or network, encrypting the files and data until a ransom is paid.

Officials for DCH Health System told Tuscaloosa News that the company paid the hackers. DCH Health System previously said in a statement that a decryption key was obtained and that teams are working to restore its systems.

CNN reached out to DCH Health System about the report that it paid the hackers but has not received a response.

While the hospitals were able to provide critical medical care to some patients after the attack was discovered on October 1, non-emergency patients were diverted to other hospitals, DCH Health System said. Staff at the three hospitals – DCH Regional Medical, Northport Medical Center and Fayette Medical Center – had to use paper instead of digital records when providing care.

After the attack, DCH contacted law enforcement and hired independent IT security and forensics experts to work around the clock to restore the computer systems, it previously said.

“We sincerely apologize for the frustration and inconvenience this incident has caused, especially to our patients and dedicated staff,” DCH said in a statement.

In 2019 alone, there have been 140 reported attacks targeting state and local governments and health care providers, according to the cybersecurity firm Recorded Future. That’s an average of almost three attacks each week – a 65% increase from last year, when 85 attacks were recorded.

CNN’s Allen Kim and Tina Burnside contributed to this report.