East Texas Hospital Network Grapples with Cybersecurity Incident

UT Health East Texas, a network of hospitals in East Texas, has faced a significant disruption, rendering their emergency rooms unable to accept ambulances since Thanksgiving Day due to a potential cybersecurity incident, as disclosed by a hospital spokesperson to CNN.

The hospital network, encompassing 10 hospitals and over 90 clinics, remains operational using established downtime procedures while actively investigating the incident and striving to restore computer systems, as stated by spokesperson Allison Pollan via email. Despite subsequent inquiries, Pollan refrained from providing further details or elaborating on the hospitals’ response, declining to respond to follow-up questions.

The network’s headquarters in Tyler, Texas, supports thousands of patients annually, underlining the substantial impact of this incident on regional healthcare operations.

UT Health East Texas joins a concerning trend among hospitals encountering cybersecurity challenges that result in redirecting ambulances. This incident marks the latest in a series that have affected hospitals in Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, and Pennsylvania over the past nine months.

The disruption commenced on Thursday when the hospital network detected a network outage, prompting an immediate network lockdown, as per the statement provided to CNN.

Initially estimating a restoration timeframe of 24-36 hours for computer networks, the network’s current status remains uncertain.

Requests for comments from federal entities responsible for aiding hospitals in cyber defense — the Department of Health and Human Services and the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) — have not elicited immediate responses. Similarly, the FBI, typically involved in such incidents, has yet to provide a comment.

Federal agencies and critical infrastructure operators, including hospitals, express heightened vigilance over long holiday weekends, given potential cyber threats, particularly ransomware attacks. This concern amplifies as cybersecurity teams may experience stretched capacities during these periods.

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