Lurie cyberattack: Hospital network down for 7th day; security expert says healthcare often targeted

Patient call center established for urgent requests

ByABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Tuesday, February 6, 2024
Security expert says hospitals often targeted in cyberattacks
A security expert Tuesday said hospitals are often targeted, seven days after Lurie Children's began having a network outage.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The network outage at Lurie Children's Hospital is now in its seventh day as the hospital has taken its computers, internet and phones offline due to an unspecified cyberattack.

"We are taking this very seriously and have launched an investigation with the support of leading experts and are working in collaboration with law enforcement agencies. As part of our response to this matter, we have proactively taken network systems offline," hospital administrators said in a statement. "We recognize the concern and inconvenience the systems outage may cause our patient families and community providers, and are working diligently to resolve this matter as quickly and effectively as possible."

A call center has been established to address needs including non-urgent patient requests, care questions, information regarding scheduled patient appointments, and patient prescription refill requests.

The Lurie Children's call center can be reached by calling 1-800-543-7362, and is operational Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 8 a.m. to noon.

Patients should visit for the most up to date information about their operations.

The ongoing outage has caused some families with appointments, as well as some Chicago-area pediatricians in the hospital's network, to find a workaround.

"At first, we had some patients having trouble communicating with their specialists, but we were able to back-channel that in a couple of ways," said Dr. Andy Bernstein, a pediatrician at North Suburban Pediatrics in Evanston.

Bernstein said the outage has had no impact on emergency services, and that Lurie continues to alert families of the outage with notices on its website and social media. Along with the call center, Bernstein said he's also fielded some questions from his patients.

Providers still do not have access to all patient records as many are only available digitally. Lurie has a network of hundreds of pediatricians, and Bernstein said even before this outage there were many lines of communication among doctors.

"Lurie has made sure they're in good contact with their referring general pediatricians," he said.

Jeff Leder, chief technology officer for DOT Security, joined ABC7 Chicago Tuesday morning to give his thoughts on the incident.

He said hospitals are not any more vulnerable than other companies, but can be targeted because of the sensitivity of their operations.

The cyberattack is still under investigation. The FBI is providing assistance.

It is still not known when the network will be back online.

The hospital released a statement Monday night:

"Lurie Children's continues to respond to a cybersecurity matter. Our top priority remains providing safe, quality care to our patients and the communities we serve.

"We acknowledge the inconvenience and concern this system outage causes for our patient families, team members, and community providers. Thank you for your continued patience and support.

"We recognize the frustration of not having clarity on when this will be resolved. Our investigation remains ongoing and we are working around the clock to resolve this matter.

"Please understand this process takes time and know that we have highly experienced, capable, and empathetic teams of both internal and external experts responding to this matter. We also continue to work in collaboration with law enforcement.

"All Lurie Children's facilities continue to follow protocols for cybersecurity matters, which includes taking network systems offline, such as phone, email and electronic records. We are taking steps to mitigate the disruption and maintain continuity of care.

"For additional assistance, please call our dedicated call center at 1.800.543.7362, M-F 8 a.m.-8p.m.; Sat. 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun. 8 a.m.-12 p.m. During the hours the Call Center is closed, please call the main operator at 312.227.4000. Due to high volumes, if you receive a busy signal, please try calling us back."