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COVID, Cybercrime Provide Double Threat To Northeast Ohio Hospitals

Federal officials are warning all U.S. hospitals, including those in the Cleveland area, that they are the target of an “imminent and increased” cybercrime threat.

University Hospital officials said they have been proactive and have already blocked some of the cybersecurity threats that the government is warning about.

This means cybersecurity protections at the organization are working, said Robert Eardley, chief information officer at UH.

Cleveland Clinic officials said the hospital system has not been impacted by any major security breaches, but they are taking steps to enhance cybersecurity.

MetroHealth and other Cleveland hospital officials said they are taking the threat seriously and doing all they can to protect patient privacy.

Hospitals have highly secure systems and protocols to protect patient information from hackers, according to Beth Gatlin from The Center for Health Affairs, an advocacy organization for Northeast Ohio hospitals.

It is not uncommon for hackers to attempt to get into hospital records, but this time is a little different, Gatlin said.  

“I think it’s unique in the fact that it’s happening on top of COVID,” she said.

Hackers have exploited the pandemic, trying to scam hospitals by telling them they have medical products or personal protective equipment to sell, she said.

“It’s almost like a double whammy,” Gatlin said.

“The COVID hackers are trying to get in, leading the way for these other cybersecurity hackers," she said.

That’s why one of the best tools for hospital security is education, so employees can recognize fake emails and scammers, she said.

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