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Hospitals affected by cyberattack say stolen patient data may be publicized

Through a joint statement published by five Ontario hospitals affected by a recent ransomware attack, along with their shared IT provider, health officials are warning patients and staff that their data may be published by “the actors responsible.”

The attack caused an outage of some online services at Bluewater Health, Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, Erie Shores HealthCare, Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare and Windsor Regional Hospital on Oct. 23.

In a release issued that day, TransForm — a non-profit group tasked with overseeing the hospitals’ IT systems — said they were the victim of a cyberattack.

Since then, affected hospitals have been forced to postpone and reschedule many surgeries and appointments.

In an updated statement issued Tuesday, TransForm said an investigation involving “leading cybersecurity experts” has determined certain patient, employee and professional staff data has been taken and may be released publicly.

“There is the possibility that the actors responsible for this attack may publish some of the stolen data,” TransForm added in its joint statement.

“We continue to investigate to determine the exact data impacted, and any individuals whose data was affected by this cyberattack will be notified in accordance with the law.”

TransForm added it continues to work around the clock to restore systems.

“We expect to have updates related to the restoration of our systems in the upcoming week,” the statement reads.

“We are working closely with law enforcement – including local police departments, Ontario Provincial Police, INTERPOL and FBI – and we have notified all relevant regulatory organizations including the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner.”

Hospitals will continue to contact patients directly in advance of their schedule appointment if they need to be rescheduled, officials said.

They added patients who are not in need of emergency care should instead reach out to their primary care provider or a local clinic.

“We understand the impact this incident is having on members of our community, including patients and our employees and professional staff, and deeply apologize for the inconvenience this has caused,” TransForm said.

“We want to thank everyone for their patience during this time.”

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