A cyberattack on Murfreesboro Medical Clinic & SurgiCenter (MMC) in Tennessee forced the healthcare provider to completely shut down operations for around two weeks to contain to attack and restore its IT systems. It is common for healthcare organizations to perform an emergency shutdown of the network to contain a cyberattack and limit the harm caused, and to operate under emergency procedures with staff recording patient information manually while systems are out of action. Some attacks see ambulances diverted and some appointments canceled for patient safety reasons, but the disruption caused by this attack was much more extensive.
The cyberattack occurred on April 22, 2023, and the network was rapidly shut down to contain the attack. Third-party cybersecurity experts were engaged to assist with the investigation and recovery from the attack. MMC said the rapid action taken in response to the security breach limited the damage caused, and work has continued round the clock to safely bring systems back online and enhance security controls. MMC has been working with cybersecurity experts and law enforcement to investigate the incident and determine the extent of the attack, and while those processes were completed, the decision was taken to close all operations. MMC planned to reopen on a limited basis on May 3, 2023, then restore full operations shortly thereafter; however, the recovery process took longer than planned.
The MMC Pediatric and Internal & Family Walk-In Clinics at its Garrison Drive location reopened on May 4, 2023, but all other locations remained closed. On May 5, 2023, all surgeries in its SurgiCenter, Gastroenterology procedures, Laboratory and Radiology services were canceled, MMC Now locations remained closed, although phone lines were restored. Over the weekend of May 6th and 7th, MMC Pediatrics resumed normal weekend operations, but MMC Now Family Walk-In Clinics and Laboratory and Radiology services remained closed for the weekend. On Monday, May 8, 2023, operations remained limited, although some scheduled appointments went ahead as planned, although laboratory and radiology services and MMC Now Family Walk-In locations remained closed.
“Preserving sensitive patient and employee information is of the utmost importance to MMC, but like so many other organizations around the country and despite its best efforts, MMC has found itself as the target of criminals attempting to steal personal or company data. I want to thank our patients and employees for their understanding and patience while we work to make sure our computer infrastructure is secure and free of any harmful software,” said Joey Peay, CEO of MMC. “We have worked diligently to communicate closures with all patients in a timely manner using all methods of communication at our disposal… we apologize for the vagueness of our recent communications, but we did not want to do anything that would impede law enforcement’s investigative efforts.”
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While the exact nature of the cyberattack has not been disclosed, this is understood to be a ransomware attack involving data theft. The extent to which patient data has been affected is being investigated and MMC will make further announcements and issue notifications as necessary when the investigation concludes.
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