Now In Court: Case of First Death From Ransomware Attack

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Thursday, September 30, 2021 - 7:07am

When Teiranni Kidd walked into Springhill Medical Center on July 16, 2019, to have her baby, she had no idea the Alabama hospital was in the midst of a ransomware attack. For nearly eight days, computers had been disabled on every floor. At the nurses' desk in the labor and delivery unit, medical staff were cut off from the equipment that monitors fetal heartbeats in the 12 delivery rooms. Kidd's daughter, Nicko Silar, was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. The condition triggers warning signs on the heart monitor when the squeezed cord cuts off the supply of blood and oxygen to the fetus. Diagnosed with severe brain damage, she died nine months later, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Amid the hack, fewer eyes were on the heart monitors—normally tracked on a large screen at the nurses' station, in addition to inside the delivery room. Obstetrician Katelyn Parnell said she would have delivered the baby by caesarean section had she seen the monitor readout. Kidd sued Springhill, alleging information about the baby's condition never made it to Dr. Parnell because the hack wiped away the extra layer of scrutiny the heart rate monitor would have received at the nurses' station. If proved in court, the case will mark the first confirmed death from a ransomware attack. Springhill CEO Jeffrey St. Clair said the hospital handled the attack appropriately. A decade ago, ransomware was a novelty--a nuisance for consumers and small businesses that often cost victims a few hundred dollars. Today, U.S. authorities are alarmed at the rising sophistication of ransomware operators, who have taken in hundreds of millions of dollars while causing major outages for transportation systems, gas pipelines and other critical infrastructure. The security firm Recorded Future estimates that there were about 65,000 incidents world-wide last year.

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