Medical data as blackmail fodder: Hackers threaten patients after massive cyber attack on Israeli hospital

One of the targets of the blackmail, Health Minister Moshe Arbel, publicly revealed a recent medical procedure after he was approached by the hackers.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Cybercriminals who obtained sensitive data regarding patients’ personal health are using the material as blackmail following a crippling cyber attack perpetrated earlier this month against Maayanei HaYeshua Medical Center in Bnei Brak.

According to an Israel Hayom report, many prominent Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) politicians, including government ministers and MKs, as well as well-known rabbis and scholars, had sensitive data regarding their health stolen in the breach.

One of the targets of the blackmail, Minister of Health and Minister of Interior Moshe Arbel (Shas) made a public statement about a medical procedure he recently underwent after he was approached by the hackers.

Arbel revealed that he underwent a routine screening of his kidney before a planned donation to a relative, which included a CT scan. However, that scan disovered a cancerous tumor on his kidney, and Arbel quickly underwent a full removal of the organ.

The lawmaker said that he was choosing to disclose this private health information himself rather than allow hackers to extort him for money or release the CT scan.

While Arbel’s medical procedure is now public knowledge, other important figures in the Haredi community may find themselves at risk of great embarrassment.

Private data from Maayanei HaYeshua’s psychiatric department was reportedly obtained in the attack. Information regarding members of the community who have sought help for depression, anxiety and other mental conditions, as well as those with regular prescriptions for psychiatric drugs, could be revealed.

The hospital said it is refusing to give into the attackers’ demands and is working hand-in-hand with the authorities to mitigate the fallout.

“Over the past week, the cyber experts from the Health Ministry, the National Cyber Directorate and the hospital have been investigating the attack, and this includes an evaluation as to the scope of the breach and its implications,” Maaynei HaYeshua said in a statement to Israel Hayom.

“There have been no negotiations of any kind with the hackers, and as we have said right after the attack happened, this incident is financially motivated. We will provide more details as we get them.”