US medical provider UHS blames ‘security issue’ for major outage

In its statement, UHS, which says it oversees 400 hospitals, did not address whether the company had suffered a ransomware attack.
(Getty Images)

Computer networks at Universal Health Services, which describes itself as one of the largest health care providers in the U.S., were down Monday due to what the company described as “an IT security issue.”

Multiple media outlets, including NBC News, suggested UHS’s IT network had been hit by ransomware and that some nurses had reverted to pen and paper. In a statement, UHS, which says it oversees 400 hospitals, did not address whether the company had suffered a ransomware attack. A company spokesperson did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

“Patient care continues to be delivered safely and effectively” and “no patient data appears to be compromised,” the UHS statement said.

It’s the latest in a series of cybersecurity incidents to affect health care facilities during the coronavirus pandemic. The most serious occurred this month when a patient in Germany died after being turned away from a hospital that was hit by a ransomware attack. In the U.S. and elsewhere, cybersecurity experts have been so concerned by hacking threats that some practitioners have volunteered their time to protect health care facilities.


UHS said it was working with security experts to get its networks back online as soon as possible.

“In the meantime, our facilities are using their established back-up processes including offline documentation methods,” the statement continued. “Patient care continues to be delivered safely and effectively.”

Sean Lyngaas

Written by Sean Lyngaas

Sean Lyngaas is CyberScoop’s Senior Reporter covering the Department of Homeland Security and Congress. He was previously a freelance journalist in West Africa, where he covered everything from a presidential election in Ghana to military mutinies in Ivory Coast for The New York Times. Lyngaas’ reporting also has appeared in The Washington Post, The Economist and the BBC, among other outlets. His investigation of cybersecurity issues in the nuclear sector, backed by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, won plaudits from industrial security experts. He was previously a reporter with Federal Computer Week and, before that, with Smart Grid Today. Sean earned a B.A. in public policy from Duke University and an M.A. in International Relations from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

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