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Safdarjung reports cyber attack, no serious damage

By, New Delhi
Dec 03, 2022 03:23 AM IST

The Safdarjung hospital was hit by a cyberattack in mid-November, officials said on Friday, but the consequence was not as crippling as it has been for All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) hospital since its processes are not computerised to any significant degree

The Safdarjung hospital was hit by a cyberattack in mid-November, officials said on Friday, but the consequence was not as crippling as it has been for All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) hospital since its processes are not computerised to any significant degree.

FILE PICTURES :: Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi on June 2, 2010. Over 500 junior doctors, including postgraduate students, interns and junior residents of Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital went on a mass hunger strike on June 1 to protest against the "lack of basic services", also threatening to boycott Out Patient Department (OPD) services. HT Photo By Sonu Mehta
FILE PICTURES :: Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi on June 2, 2010. Over 500 junior doctors, including postgraduate students, interns and junior residents of Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital went on a mass hunger strike on June 1 to protest against the "lack of basic services", also threatening to boycott Out Patient Department (OPD) services. HT Photo By Sonu Mehta

The disclosure comes as the nearby AIIMS hospital, the country’s foremost government hospital and medical research centre, remained offline for the eleventh day after a ransomware attack locked, and possibly stole, medical records and knocked out the main hospital management software.

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“There was a cyber attack in our hospital system and servers were down but the National Informatics Centre (NIC) was able to revive the systems,” said Dr BL Sherwal, medical superintendent of Safdarjung hospital. The Safdarjung hospital is the second most prominent government hospital in the Capital, drawing in, like AIIMS, hundreds of patients from across the country every day.

According to Sherwal, the administration was informed about the cyberattack early on November 14, after computer operators were unable to log into a few computers.

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Other officials from the hospital said the network was hit for roughly 12 hours but was brought online the same day.

It was not clear if the cyberattack involved the same attackers or the malware that infected AIIMS, but these people, who asked not to be named, said it too was a ransomware.

“In AIIMS, from taking an appointment to printing prescriptions, everything is digitised. In Safdarjung Hospital, most of our daily operations continue manually. That is a major reason why the impact was not as badly felt,” said Dr Anuj Agarwal, senior resident, department of radio-diagnosis and interventional radiology, and general secretary of the resident doctors’ association at Safdarjung Hospital.

On November 23, the systems at AIIMS and its centres were corrupted by a ransomware attack, which wiped patient records, administrative and research data from its primary and backup servers. The Delhi Police’s Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations (IFSO) cell filed an FIR invoking sections of cyber terrorism (IT Act, section 66F) against unknown persons, while teams from NIC and Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) began an as-yet unsuccessful salvage operation.

In its latest statement issued on Thursday, AIIMS said that eHospital application, the software used for various services, was restored and the rest of the network was being sanitised before services can be restored. All hospital services, including for outpatient and in-patient functions, laboratories continue to run on a manual basis, slowing things down immensely. HT reported on Friday that the hospital has treated 2,000-3,000 patients daily on average in the last week, compared to the 30,000-35,000 that it does typically.

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The Delhi Police on Friday also said that forensic images of the infected servers have been sent for analysis. “In AIIMS Delhi computer incident, the forensic images of impacted servers have been sent to the labs for forensic analysis. Analysis is under process. AIIMS administration and other agencies are in the process of restoring and reviving services,” it added.

In Delhi, heads of other government institutions said they are reviewing if they need to step up security on their networks for such attacks.

“Our primary focus is the protection of patient data and privacy for which we do not compromise on keeping our antivirus software totally updated. We are also discussing with the government on what more can be done to safeguard our hospital networks from such attacks,” said Dr Subhash Giri, medical director of Guru Teg Bahadur (GTB) and Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital, two of the biggest state government-run hospitals in the city.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Soumya Pillai covers environment and traffic in Delhi. A journalist for three years, she has grown up in and with Delhi, which is often reflected in the stories she does about life in the city. She also enjoys writing on social innovations.

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