Federal office probes Guam Memorial Hospital network breach

Jolene Toves reports:

The “unauthorized access” that prompted the Guam Memorial Hospital to shut down its network in March is now being investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to an acceptance letter addressed to a whistleblower who is only identified as “Leaky Leaks.”

The acceptance letter, dated April 18, notified the whistleblower that the HHS Office for Civil Rights for the Pacific region was in receipt of the complaint.

The whistleblower claims that OCR is seeking a list of patients potentially harmed by the network shutdown, specifically asking for:

  • The list of patients who should have received medication, but received the wrong prescription or no prescription medications because GMH’s computer system was down in March 2023;
  • The list of patients who should have had blood transfusions, surgical procedures, and other services, but did not because the GMH computer system was down; and a
  • List of all other patients harmed by the GMH computer outage in March 2023.

DataBreaches (who is NOT “Leaky Leaks”) does not know if OCR is really asking for all those things or whether the complainant just asked them to. Once HHS opens an investigation, they do not provide any specific details or updates.

Read more at Guam Daily Post.

A previous media report on March 31 provides some background on the incident, but there is still too much that has not been disclosed — such as whether there was any ransom demand at all or any protected health information or employee information accessed or exfiltrated.

The whistleblower complaint, as described in the news report, raises a number of issues and questions. If entities take networks offline proactively at signs of what might be a cyberattack, isn’t that generally considered a smart move?  There have been many entities that have taken their networks offline in response to what might be a cyberattack. Is there anything unique about the GMH situation that merits a whistleblower complaint?  If so, it’s not obvious yet.

DataBreaches sent an email inquiry to GMH earlier today but no reply has been immediately received. This post will be updated if one is received.

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