A Burnsville dental office has fallen victim to two costly cyber attacks in the last week. However, instead of having their bank accounts robbed, the hackers demanded they pay a “cyber ransom” after blocking the office’s access to its own patient database.
The first ransom demand was on July 8, when $1,000 was demanded, followed by another demand for $600 on July 12.
Dr. Lloyd Wallin runs the clinic being targeted. And just recently, to comply with a State of Minnesota mandate, he traded in his paper filing system for an electronic one.
"All of this stuff together cost us over $70,000," Wallin said of his new twice-compromised system. "It bothers me that the state made us go into this and they have no provision to protect us from hackers."
Wallin, who is in his seventies and has been practicing dentistry for decades, admits computers aren’t his strong suit and is frustrated with the breaches.
“We had no access, we didn't know the patients who were coming in, we couldn't take x-rays, everything was shut down," he said.
Cyber security attorney Sean Harrington says the number one prevention tactic would be two entirely separate computer systems, a fix he admits would be quite costly to small providers.
"A system that is processing, receiving, or transmitting protected health information, in my opinion, should not be connected to the internet via a browser and should not be used for email purposes," Harrington said.
Meanwhile, Wallin might have to spend even more money to protect sensitive patient information inside a system he admittedly never even wanted.
“We have two systems set up, viral protection systems," he said. "They've both been breached, and now they're [the software provider of the office] talking we should go to a third."
The hardware provider for Wallin’s office is Erikson Technologies -- they say out of 600 dental offices using their system nationwide, around 20 have become victim to “ransomoware” in the last year.
As for now, Wallin is out $1,600 while his office is working with the software provider XLDent to resolve the issue and prevent future attacks.