DOJ charges cybersecurity official for attack on Georgia hospital

Vikas Singla is facing decades in prison for allegedly stealing patient information and disrupting services at a hospital near Atlanta in 2018.
Written by Jonathan Greig, Contributor

The Justice Department filed charges against a former cybersecurity official this week over a 2018 cyberattack on Gwinnett Medical Center in Georgia.

Vikas Singla was indicted for allegedly stealing information from a digitizing device while also disrupting the hospital's phone and printer services. 

While the indictment did not name the company the 45-year-old worked for, Bleeping Computer reported he was chief operating officer of a healthcare-focused network security firm called Securolytics. 

The Marietta-native allegedly had help with the attack. The indictment said Singla was "aided and abetted by unknown others" on September 27, 2018 when he hacked into the hospital's Ascom phone system as well as a series of Lexmark printers and a Hologic R2 Digitizer.

Singla appeared before US Magistrate Judge Linda Walker of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on Thursday and was charged with 17 counts of intentional damage to a protected computer. Each count carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. 

He is also facing a charge of obtaining information by computer from a protected computer.

Less than a month after the intrusion, Gwinnett Medical Center began investigating their own systems after patient information appeared online, according to ZDNet. They traced the breach back to an IT intrusion on September 29 -- just two days after Singla's alleged actions -- and said the attackers were threatening the 500-bed non-profit hospital. 

After three days, the attackers released full names, dates of birth, and gender of some patients while also boasting to news outlets about their access to the hospital's systems. 

One of the attackers, angry that the hospital initially denied it was hacked, messaged security blog Salted Hash to tout their control of the hospital, writing, "does GMC have control of this system. The answer is no. The last time we checked, we own their Ascom system and their data."

The FBI and Justice Department did not say whether the two attacks were connected, but Acting US Attorney for Georgia Kurt Erskine said Singla "allegedly compromised Gwinnett Medical Center's operations in part for his own personal gain." 

Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Atlanta Field Office, added that the cyberattack could have had disastrous consequences and noted that patients' personal information was compromised due to Singla's alleged actions.

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