Hadera hospital still offline a day after cyberattack

The computer systems at Hillel Yaffe Medical Center in Hadera were still down Thursday morning following a cyberattack against the hospital a day earlier, according to the Health Ministry.

The Health Ministry said it was working with the National Cyber Directorate and other experts “around the clock” to investigate the incident. It added that experts and equipment have been sent to the hospital “to restore the hospital’s computer systems to full function as quickly as possible.”

On Wednesday morning, Hillel Yaffe said it had received no advance warning of the attack on its computer systems. Urgent medical services at the hospital were continuing as usual as it switched to alternate systems. With computer systems down, hospital staff resorted to logging admissions with pen and paper. Heavy delays in treatment were caused due to doctors having to constantly walk between departments in order to review test results.

Hillel Yaffe serves hundreds of thousands of people, but the hospital said that patients’ lives were never in danger from the cyberattack.

Mickey Dudkiewicz, the director of the hospital, told 103FM radio on Thursday morning that he was not sure when the medical center would fully return online.

“It’s hard to estimate,” he said. “I hope it will be as soon as possible. The Health Ministry, the National Cyber Directorate and the best companies are all working with the experts.”

Hospital staff at Hillel Yaffe Medical Center log patient details with pen and paper, following a ransomware cyberattack, October 13, 2021. (Hillel Yaffe Medical Center)

The National Cyber Directorate said Thursday that, after an initial investigation, it issued a broad warning to businesses and institutions to be on high alert for cyberattacks.

“Hospitals and health clinics have received instructions according to the latest developments,” said a joint statement from the Health Ministry and the cyber directorate. “Ongoing guidelines for heightened vigilance and preparedness are being distributed as necessary.”

Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash said Thursday that the cyberattack should be a wake-up call to all medical facilities in Israel.

“We must learn the lesson and better protect our health system,” Ash told the Ynet news site. “Cyberattacks are one of the greatest threats today. It could be life-threatening.”

Mickey Dudkiewicz, director of Hadera’s Hillel Yaffe Medical Center, delivers a statement following a ransomware cyberattack, October 13, 2021. (Hillel Yaffe Medical Center)

In a letter to hospitals around the country, the Health Ministry urged them to print out patients’ medical files amid fears of further cyberattacks.

Health Ministry officials told Kan news on Wednesday that the hackers were likely only motivated by financial gain, and there was no indication of it being a “security-related” attack by an enemy state or otherwise.

Last month, Israeli cybersecurity firm Check Point reported that Israeli institutions are targeted with about twice as many cyberattacks as the average in other countries around the world, including the country’s health sector, which experiences an average of 1,443 attacks a week.

Stuart Winer and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.