Flint, Mich. Hospital Emails Show Hacktivists Infected Workstations

Healthcare and Public Health // Michigan, United States

Newly-obtained documents reveal that on Jan. 17 Hurley Medical Center’s IT staff informed employees that a virus "has infected most" of the hospital's computers, adding that passwords must be changed to prevent employee credentials from being stolen.

This incident, apparently the work of the online hacker collective Anonymous, was intended as a protest over the Flint water crisis.

Emails and records, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, show a Jan. 15 cyber strike upended the hospital's food service and administrative systems.

Lunch was delayed after generic trays were dispatched and nurses were forced to supervise preparations for special diets. Some patients did not receive their lunch trays until after 4 p.m.

In the hospital's emergency room, staff were unable to print labels, ID badges or patient discharges.

The delays did not prevent hospital staff from treating patients, officials said.

"Patient care was not compromised," said hospital spokeswoman Ilene Cantor. "Hurley Medical Center has established policies and procedures to deal with routine and non-routine computer downtime.

"The areas that were impacted utilized the established downtime procedures and the most significant impact was a delay in meal tray delivery on January 16th.  All other areas were able to continue care utilizing downtime procedures and additional staff.”

Further emails show the hackers sent phishing emails in an attempt to obtain staff personal information. They also targeted employees on social media sites and made phone calls to their work, cellphones and home phones, according to a Jan. 21 hospital-wide email.