Cyberattacks maintain up India’s push for digitisation of well being

  1. Shefali Malhotra, international journalism fellow and well being coverage researcher
  1. Dalla Lana Faculty of Public Well being, College of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
  2. New Delhi

A large cyberattack at India’s largest public hospital is elevating questions on not solely the focused establishment’s safety however the digitisation of the nation’s healthcare system. ShefaliMalhotra experiences

In November 2022, one in every of India’s main hospitals, the 3000 mattress All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi, had its pc servers knocked out by a ransomware assault.

Ransomware is a sort of malicious software program designed to stop an organisation from accessing its pc programs till it pays a big amount of cash to the hackers. The AIIMS assault crippled a variety of companies, together with affected person registration, on-line appointments, diagnostic report technology, and billing, in addition to administrative programs corresponding to wage disbursal and drug procurement. Indian media reported that the hackers demanded a ransom of Rs2bn (£2m; €2.2m; $2.4m) in cryptocurrency,1 a declare denied by the federal government.2

For nearly two weeks, these companies needed to be managed manually, resulting in lengthy queues and including to affected person ready instances. However whereas on-line companies have now resumed, with knowledge restored from a backup server, the private knowledge of greater than 30 million sufferers and healthcare staff, together with a number of cupboard ministers and senior bureaucrats, might have been compromised.3 Opposite to media experiences, the Indian authorities has denied that any ransom was demanded, and Delhi police are nonetheless investigating.

Hospital officers have refused to remark. Nevertheless, the incident has prompted a lot soul looking and inevitable questions on whether or not a rustic which is a world chief in info expertise has sufficient safeguards for its desired digital revolution in healthcare.

“AIIMS is one in every of our premier hospitals,” says Mahesh Verma, professor emeritus and former director of the Maulana Azad Institute of Dental Sciences, one other public hospital in Delhi, “If cyberattacks can occur there, they’ll occur anyplace within the nation. …