The Life Healthcare group said on Tuesday that its online systems had been hit by a cyberattack that affected admissions systems, business processing systems and email servers.Photo: Facebook
The Life Healthcare group said on Tuesday that its online systems had been hit by a cyberattack that affected admissions systems, business processing systems and email servers.Photo: Facebook

Life Healthcare group moves patients' files offline after cyber attack

By Tebogo Monama Time of article published Jun 10, 2020

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A cyber attack has led to a large hospital group moving all of its patient admission systems off-line.

The Life Healthcare group said on Tuesday that its online systems had been hit by a cyberattack that affected admissions systems, business processing systems and email servers.

“We immediately took these off-line as a precautionary measure to contain the attack, conduct our investigations and, where necessary, commence remediation,” said acting group chief executive Pieter van der Westhuizen.

He reassured that despite the attack, the hospital group would be able to care for patients.

“First, and foremost we wish to assure all the communities within which we operate that this criminal attack on our systems will not affect the quality care and clinical excellence we aim to provide.

“We are deeply disappointed and saddened that criminals would attack our facilities during such a time, when we are all working tirelessly and collectively to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. However, we will not be distracted, and will continue to place our patients first.”

Van der Westhuizen said: “We acted immediately on becoming aware of the incident and took our systems off-line in order to actively contain the attack.

“The extent to which sensitive data has been compromised is yet to be ascertained, as we are still in the process of investigating.

“External cyber-security experts and forensic teams have been brought on board to advise and supplement our internal teams and capacity. We have alerted the relevant authorities and investigations are under way.”

As a result of the attack, employees switched to back-up manual processing systems, which has led to some administrative delays.

Life Healthcare is the third major company in the country to be targeted by hackers this year.

Nedbank in February warned that information of about 1.7 million clients was potentially affected by a data breach, and the following month chemicals and fertilisers maker Omnia Holdings said its IT infrastructure had been hit.

Last year, hackers hit the Joburg City Council, targeting the computers of employees.

Late last month, Life Healthcare reported a 2.2% jump in first-half normalised core profit at R2.73billion.

In February, South African information technology experts warned businesses and consumers to back up their databases and to train employees regarding the risk of cybercrime attacks. This followed a vehicle-tracking firm becoming the latest local business to be attacked by cybercriminals at the time.

During that period, it was reported statistics indicated that four out of every 10 companies were targeted by ransomware hackers, but anecdotal evidence and journal articles suggested that the incidence was higher, with seven to eight firms falling prey to the crime. 

Additional reporting by Reuters.

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