As the Toronto Star and CBC first reported last month, Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto has been investigating a cyberattack it discovered on October 23. In its update on October 26, the hospital reported that it was actively investigating what they labeled a “data security incident.”
“At this time, there are no known impacts to clinical applications or patient care services,” they announced, adding, “We have initiated a Code Grey to facilitate the coordination of resources and business continuity. We have also notified our partners.”
“Out of an abundance of caution, our teams are in the process of planning and implementing additional proactive measures to safeguard our data and information systems while the investigation is underway,” they wrote.
On November 1, the hospital issued another update, reporting that the Code Grey had enabled the hospital to effectively prepare downtime procedures in the event of a large-scale information technology (IT) system failure. That system failure did not occur, and they were able to report, “MGH’s programs and patient care services are operating normally, with no impacts to our information and clinical application systems. Therefore, we are declaring the Code Grey All Clear.”
But it has not been all good news. In a November 3 update, they disclosed that they had determined that some patient, staff, credentialed clinician, and donor data had been exposed. “At this time,” they wrote, “there is no indication that our patient health information database was compromised or that this incident is related to the cyberattack recently experienced by other hospitals in southwestern Ontario. We continue to work with third-party experts to assess the extent of the exposure and individuals impacted. We will notify individuals whose data is affected by this incident in accordance with the law.”
MGH also published an FAQ about the breach that likely upset patients who read that it may take months for the hospital to figure out whose data was exposed.
In email communications with DataBreaches on November 4, a spokesperson for MGH stated that this was an attack in which files were not encrypted. They also explained that when they talked about data being “exposed,” they were saying it had been exfiltrated.
On November 8, MGH issued its most recent update, stating, in part:
At Michael Garron Hospital (MGH), we recently suffered a data security incident perpetrated by a cyber threat actor group. We did not pay a ransom and we are aware that data connected to the incident may be published. Having received the advice and counsel of leading third-party experts, we determined we would not yield to ransom demands. Our programs and patient care services continue to operate normally and MGH remains a safe place to receive care.
We have determined that some personal data belonging to MGH employees and credentialed clinicians employed from January 2015 to November 2023 was stolen. At this time, we can confirm this data includes home addresses, social insurance numbers, bank account numbers (employees on direct deposit) and earnings information for affected employees and home addresses, social insurance numbers and earnings information for affected credentialed clinicians.
Their full update can be found on their website. Of note, the notice also states:
We know that some patients and donors are also affected by the incident, though it will take us time to analyze data to determine who is affected and how. We will continue to be transparent and will notify those affected as appropriate. We encourage you to read our Frequently Asked Questions page to learn more.
On the same day MGH issued its update, Akira threat actors announced they were responsible for the attack on MGH, claiming they had taken 882k files or 775 GB from their network. “You will find lots of confidential information very soon. Stay tuned,” they threatened.
Re-check of Akira’s leak site yesterday and today did not find any listing for Michael Garron Hospital at all. There could be various explanations for its seeming disappearance, one of which might be that the hospital backtracked on its decision not to pay and is in negotiations with the threat actors or has paid them. Alternatively, the listing may just be down for updating or for some other reason. DataBreaches will continue to monitor the leak site to see if the listing reappears.