Network security provider’s COO charged in medical center cyberattack

On June 10, the Justice Department announced that the chief operating officer of an Atlanta-area network security firm had been arrested on charges related to a 2018 cyberattack on a Georgia healthcare system.

Vikas Singla, who LinkedIn lists as working for cloud-based threat detection platform Securolytics, has been accused of targeting Gwinnett Medical Center in part for financial gain.

“This cyberattack on a hospital could not only have had disastrous consequences, but patients’ personal information was also compromised,” Special Agent in Charge Chris Hacker of the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office said in a statement.

“The FBI and our law enforcement partners are committed to holding accountable those who allegedly endangered the health and safety of people, while being motivated by greed,” Hacker said.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT

According to court documents, Singla is accused of attempting to disrupt the telephone and network printing service at Gwinnett Medical Center, now known as Northside Hospital after a 2019 merger.

He is also accused of intentionally trying to obtain information from a protected computer: the Hologic R2 scanner.

Hologic’s R2 technology is widely used in mammography.

The indictment says the offense was committed “for commercial advantage and private financial gain.”

If fulfilled, court documents say the incident would have resulted in impaired care for at least one person.

Singla is charged with 17 counts of willfully damaging a protected computer, each carrying a maximum sentence of ten years in prison, and one count of obtaining information by computer from a computer protected, punishable by up to five years in prison.

“Cyberattacks that target critical infrastructure, such as health care, pose a serious threat to public health and safety,” Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine for the Northern District of Georgia said in a statement.

“In this case, Singla would have compromised the operations of Gwinnett Medical Center partly for his own personal gain,” Erskine added.

Neither Northside nor Gwinnett are currently listed on the Securolytics client page. Securolytics requests for comment were not returned.

THE GREAT TREND

At a time when several high-profile cyberattacks have been linked to powerful nation states or shadowy multinational groups, it is essential to remember that privacy and security risks can also arise much closer to home.

Recently, a data breach potentially compromised the information of approximately 72,000 residents involved in Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 contact tracing program. This breach was linked to employees of a third-party vendor who were accused of ignoring security protocols.

REGISTRATION

“Criminal disruptions of hospital computer networks can have tragic consequences,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said in a statement. “The department is committed to holding accountable those who endanger the lives of patients by damaging computers critical to the operation of our healthcare system.”

Kat Jercich is editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

Kevin M. Risinger