In the wake of a series of large-scale cyber-attacks against medical institutions in Israel and around the world, Shaare Zedek Medical Centre held a major drill this week to test the hospital’s readiness in the face of such an attack. The drill, which took place in the middle of the night, simulated a significant digital attack on the hospital’s major engineering and IT systems. To best simulate the conditions, the hospital temporarily shut down specific computer and communications systems that are heavily relied on for daily operations.
During the simulation, certain medical and administrative teams relied almost exclusively on hand-written communication with the drill managers closely observing how the hospital would need to respond in the event of an actual attack. The simulation continued for about two hours, after which all systems were fully restored.
Shaare Zedek Director General Prof. Ofer Merin commented, “Shaare Zedek is the largest centrally located hospital in the Jerusalem area and among the largest in all of Israel so we always need to be prepared for all types of events. The urgency of the threat became ever more real after the recent attack on Hillel Yaffe Hospital in Hadera and in response we have been actively updating our systems and this drill will help our teams know how to act in such a situation. We continue to work to further enhance our levels of readiness so as to be able to promise our patients and staff ideal care and conditions in all types of events.”
Shimi Ben Baruch, Chief Technology Officer at Shaare Zedek observed that “Cyber threats have become a real challenge for any major organization, and particularly places like hospitals where our functioning is critical for the safety and health of our community. These types of drills are therefore essential to ensure that we would be able to continue to function even in the face of a major attack. This simulation taught us a great deal about our abilities and readiness to act if such an event were to occur.”
The technical aspects of the drill were directed by the Information Technologies Division under Ms. Rivka Rudensky with oversight from the Director of the hospital’s emergency preparedness branch, Ms. Sarah Goldberg.
Ms. Rudensky explained, “Shutting down core communications systems within a hospital is a significant procedure, both technically and operationally and has very real impact on a hospital’s ability to function at optimal levels. However, we know that such a drill is vital for our ability to be ready to respond to an attack and adapt our levels of response as needed. Planning for this drill was extensive and involved many areas of the hospital and we are thankful that the simulation went as planned and was managed with a high level of precision and professionalism with coordination from all the relevant partners that gives us a high level of confidence that we will be prepared in the face of potential incidents in the future.”
Ms. Goldberg added, “Preparing for emergency situations is a necessary part of our daily planning and this drill is certainly a part of that effort as cyber threats are a very real aspect of the world we live in. We can now operate with the understanding that our teams are that much better informed and prepared should we ever need to deal with an actual shutdown as the result of a cyber attack.”
PHOTOS COURTESY OF SHAARE ZEDEK MEDICAL CENTER