MONTCLAIR, N.J. -- A ransomware attack on a health system in New Jersey is forcing two hospitals in the state to divert patients coming to their emergency rooms to other facilities.
One of the hospitals is Hackensack Meridian Pascack Valley Medical Center in Westwood and the other is in Montclair.
EMS personnel and patients coming to Mountainside Medical Center's emergency room in Montclair had to be diverted to other facilities Monday, according to a hospital spokesperson. Ardent Health Services, which runs the hospital, blamed the move on a ransomware attack.
For local residents, the news was a bit unnerving.
"It's a little scary because if you think about it, it's like your personal safety. Your personal ... your hometown. Like, it's in your backyard," said Erica Ling of Glen Ridge.
Hospital officials said Mountainside Medical Center's ER continues to care for patients and there has been no adverse impact on patient care.
Ardent Health said it became aware of the security incident on Thanksgiving and immediately began safeguarding data and took its network offline. The company also said it reported the cyber attack to law enforcement, retained threat intelligence advisors, and is working to restore the network as quickly as possible.
"There is some risk that this is what we think of as a two-phase attack, where it's partially disturbing the systems and disconnecting them, then charging ransomware," cybersecurity expert Jack Danahy said.
Danahy said more than 200 healthcare facilities were targeted last year, alone.
"It can have a material affect on the provision of care, that entry of information. We know with the case of earlier attacks, it can take weeks or months for those systems to come back online," Danahy said.
While Ardent Health said it cannot confirm the extent of any patient health or financial data that may have been compromised, Danahy said current and former patients should be on the lookout for possible notices from the hospital.
"The ability of that same information to be stolen at the time it's being encrypted. It could be stolen for the purpose of potentially reselling," Danahy said.
There is still no word on who or what caused the potential security incident.
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