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Houston Healthcare falls victim to cybersecurity attack, tech professor warns on how to avoid

13WMAZ reached out to Houston health care spokesman Kevin Rowley for an update on the hacking and how it’s affected care. He has not responded.

HOUSTON COUNTY, Ga. — On Monday, Houston Healthcare is not responding to questions about the ransomware attack that hit them last week.

As of March 6, the hospital on Watson Boulevard remains open.

Meanwhile, experts tell us ransom ware attacks are becoming common among large organizations.

On March 3, a representative for Houston Healthcare said they'd gone through a cybersecurity incident and they were using "back up processes" and "downtime procedures."

Ransomware attacks happen when hackers lock down computer systems until the victim agrees to pay a ransom. Organizations like universities and hospitals are often at the top of the hackers' lists.

"One kind is where the computer itself it taken over by a malicious actor in which you can’t use the computer because someone else controls it. They encrypt the files or prevent you from using it as a computer. The second type is where the files on the computer are exfiltrated, they're pulled off and the attacker now has access to your information," Director of Cybersecurity Education at Middle Georgia State University Alan Stines said.

He says both types are common.

When hospitals are involved there's more to worry about than just a data leak.

Anything running on a computer can be affected.

"Before we started, we talked about an MRI machine or some sort of equipment that's in the operating room. If the surgeon doesn't have access to something to complete a surgery, that could be a very bad day for that,” Stines said.

He says large organizations are usually attacked when someone pretends to be a part of or interested in a company.

Stines says questioning strange emails or attachments and using strong, long complex passwords could slow attackers.

13WMAZ reached out to Houston Healthcare spokesman Kevin Rowley for an update on the hacking and how it’s affected care. 

He has not responded.

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