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Florida Heart Associates recovering from ransomware hack

Posted at 9:09 PM, Jul 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-25 23:32:18-04

CAPE CORAL, FLA — Cybersecurity experts, like Florida Gulf Coast University's Eugene Hoyt, say hacking is on the rise.

"It's a serious uptick right now," he said, "So it's not just the large government agencies being hacked, you're having local government's being hacked and all the way down to individuals."

And one of the more popular types being used is ransomware.

"Basically trying to get you to click on links that look legit to gain access to your computer," he said.

Once the hackers are in, they lock down your system and demand a ransom to release it.

So, should you pay the ransom?

"I highly say 'no,'" said Hoyt.

However, Hoyt also adds that sometimes companies have to pay or risk losing everything.

It's a sticky situation that the CEO of Florida Heart Associates, Todd Rauchenberger, tells FOX 4 the company found itself in, in May.

They ultimately chose not to pay and were able to get control back, but not before hackers took down their phone lines and essentially destroyed their entire system.

The family of an FHA patient says they've been trying to get their loved one seen by a doctor for months.

"You can't get in to get an appointment," said Brittany Wallace, "No one ever called and then we get a letter in the mail a couple of weeks after that stating that patients' information was [exposed] or that their system was hacked."

And Wallace says the hack came at scary time.

"One of his important medications that he didn't have any refills on was about to run out," he said.

FHA tells FOX 4 that they've lost staff as a result of the hack and only just got their phones back online.

In all, they estimate that they're operating at about 50 percent right now.

And in order to accommodate families, like the Wallaces, FHA is now taking walk-in appointments.

That family says that's something they'll be taking advantage of, but they're also encouraging other patients to share their concerns.

"The squeaky wheel gets the grease you just have to keep calling and like you said, walk-in," said Wallace.

Rauchenberger also tells FOX 4 that they're hoping to be back up and fully running by late August or early September. In the meantime, if you have questions about the hack they have set up a call center. You can call them at 1-855-545-1951.

If you're wondering how you can help prevent a hack like this one, Hoyt has a few tips.

First, he says we should all be changing our passwords every 90 days.

And he encourages businesses and government agencies to invest in "anti-hacking" software.

That said, he also believes that you have to prepare for the scenario in which you do get hacked.

And in that case, he says you've got to make sure you have a backup version of your system, important files, and passwords saved offline.