Dax hospital disrupted by a “major” computer attack

The Dax hospital center, the second hospital in the Landes, was the target at the beginning of the week of a major computer attack of undetermined origin, which still disrupted its operation on Wednesday, forcing it to accept only major emergencies.

The Dax-Côte d’Argent Hospital Center, an establishment with 1,000 places and 2,300 employees, was the victim overnight from Monday to Tuesday of an attack attributed to “ransomware” (or ransomware). The attack caused major disruptions on the computer network, which were still in progress Wednesday, even if the phone has since been restored, detailed a spokeswoman for AFP.

In the establishment, “a single computer no longer works. From reading a medical file to the catering system, the entire chain is affected”, told AFP the mayor of Dax Julien Dubois, president of the Council of hospital administration. The establishment had to go back to degraded procedures in paper mode.

According to Dax’s prosecutor Rodophe Jarry, the attack “flattened the hospital’s computer systems and telephone, with a clear and obvious endangerment for the care of patients”. But “the hospital center reacted very quickly,” he told AFP.

The attack, for example, strongly impacted sectors such as sterilization – via the computerization of washing cycles – or catering via room plans, explained a spokesperson. But others such as intensive care – where the hospital has a dozen Covid patients – were not affected.

“We row, but we manage”, assured this spokesperson, describing the frustration of a nursing staff “disillusioned” by the attack, but “of great solidarity” to face. And the “great understanding of the incredibly friendly patients”.

– Hospitals, preferred IT targets –

No patient had to be evacuated, but “admissions are limited to the maximum. Only patients in a very important emergency situation are admitted. The relay is taken by the liberal actors and by neighboring hospitals”, according to M Dubois, as in radiotherapy and oncology. The caregivers can consult the medical files there on the servers of the Health insurance.

“In view of the scale of the attack” computer, the prosecution of Dax announced to have relinquished on Wednesday in favor of the prosecution of Paris, with national competence in cybercrime.

An investigation is underway for “infringement of a data processing system implemented by the State in an organized band, fraudulent access and maintenance in such a system, modification of the data contained in such a system and fraudulent entry of data, extortion in an organized gang, and criminal association “.

The Central Office for the Fight against Crime Related to Information and Communication Technologies (OCLCTIC) was responsible for the investigation, even if the Bayonne judicial police, which carried out the first acts, remained in a first co-entry time.

A crisis unit was to bring together hospital management, the Regional Health Agency and Anssi (National Agency for the Security of Information Systems) on Thursday for a strategy aimed at ensuring the permanence of care and recreating the IT structure. “Which will take at least two weeks”, according to the mayor of Dax.

The attack is reminiscent of the one that severely disrupted the Rouen University Hospital at the end of 2019, without however jeopardizing the health of patients. In this type of “ransomware” attack, hackers break into the computer system and then encrypt its files to make them inoperative, demanding a ransom to unlock them.

According to a recent report by Anssi, hospitals and other entities in the health sector are one of the prime targets of ransomware attackers. A trend that “increased in 2020, especially in the context of the pandemic linked to Covid-19, the attack probably more easily pushing hospitals to pay the ransom given the critical need for business continuity”.


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