Hackers hold medical records for ransom in Australia

Seven years of patients' electronic medical records (EMRs) at a medical clinic in Miami, Queensland, are being held for ransom by hackers, according to Australian television channel ABC News.

The Miami Family Medical Centre discovered on December 8 when attempting to log into its EMR database that hackers, believed to be from Eastern Europe or Russia, had commandeered the clinic's files by encrypting them. The hackers had posted a message demanding a payment of $4,000 Australian ($4,420 U.S., 3,211 euros) for the files to be restored to the clinic. The clinic will not pay the ransom.

Clinic co-owner David Wood told ABC News reporter David Lewis that the hackers penetrated what the clinic's IT consultants felt were robust firewalls and passwords. Updated virus protection software was in place.

The EMR held thousands of medical records of patients treated over the past seven years. The clinic is not believed to have had backup tapes or a backup archive. Jason Fillmore, a security expert, told ABC News that very sophisticated military-grade encryption had been utilized, and that decrypting the database would be too difficult.

This incident follows 11 others of ransom being requested for hacked computer files in small and midsized businesses in Queensland over the past year.

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