JIPMER suspends tele-consultation following ransomware attack

Institute reverts to manual mode for day-to-day operations

September 06, 2021 01:03 am | Updated 01:03 am IST - PUDUCHERRY

Following a suspected ransomware attack on its computer systems, JIPMER has suspended tele-consultation services and reverted to manual mode to continue its day-to-day operations.

According to sources, the attack came to light late on Friday when technical staff detected glitches while trying to access the servers. As a precautionary measure, the digital grid on which the hospital functions was shut down and the Ministries concerned alerted, given the serious implications of the incident, they added.

“Cyber experts from across the country are investigating the incident remotely. The police and a couple of cyber experts inspected the site. We are also following guidance from experts every step of the way,” a JIPMER spokesperson said.

“Barring our tele-consultation services, most other operations are continuing in manual mode. The tele-consultations, which were introduced to help patients access our expertise without visiting the premises due to the pandemic, are entirely driven by computer system, from retrieving patient records to prescribing treatment plans,” the spokesperson added.

Due to the disruption to the computer-based hospital information system, tele-consultation services were being suspended till further notice. The landline numbers offered for tele-consultation services will not be active till these services are reinstated. Efforts were on to restart the services in a staggered manner at the earliest to minimise hardship to the patients, JIPMER said.

The JIPMER website was also down on Sunday. A search with the keywords “JIPMER ransomware” threw up as the top result a dead link titled “Prevention of WannaCry Ransomware Threat-session...JIPMER”.

This type of malware attack was first reported on a global scale in 2017. The attack involved unleashing a WannaCry ransomware cryptoworm on computers running the Microsoft Windows operating system, encrypting the data and demanding payment in Bitcoin as ransom.

As the attack is being investigated, JIPMER has been receiving guidance from a handful of other hospitals with comparable levels of digitisation.

“In our assessment, our operations have not been very badly affected. Even procedures otherwise guided by technology tools are now being performed manually,” the spokesperson said.

“Since Friday, all computer systems have been taken offline. Images, investigations and data on the Hospital Information System are inaccessible,” a doctor said.

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