Hollywood Hospital Pays Bitcoin Ransom to Hackers
They demanded bitcoins to unlock computer systems
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted Feb 18, 2016 3:00 AM CST
The 434-bed Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center.   (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)

(Newser) – A Hollywood hospital faced with an alarming 21st-century dilemma caved in and paid a $17,000 ransom to hackers holding its computer systems hostage. Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center CEO Allen Stefanek says hackers infected the private 434-bed hospital's systems with malware and wouldn't restore them until they received 40 bitcoins, the Los Angeles Times reports. "The malware locks systems by encrypting files and demanding ransom to obtain the decryption key," he says. "The quickest and most efficient way to restore our systems and administrative functions was to pay the ransom and obtain the decryption key. In the best interest of restoring normal operations, we did this."

The demand surfaced after staff declared an "internal emergency" on Feb. 5, and systems were back online by Monday, according to Stefanek, who describes the attack as "random." The LAPD and the FBI are investigating the incident, which forced the hospital to turn away patients and to return to using pen and paper for record keeping, NBC Los Angeles reports. A computer forensics expert tells Fox 11 that he has dealt with several other "ransomware" attacks over the last year, but nothing on the same scale as the Hollywood attack. He says the hackers originally demanded 9,000 bitcoins, which works out to more than $3 million. (A rogue porn app snaps photos of users and demands $500.)