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Several French hospitals crippled by cyberattacks

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By Natalie Huet  & Tokunbo Salako
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The North West hospital in Villefranche-sur-Saône, France, announced on Monday, 15 February 2021 that it had been targeted by a large-scale cyberattack.
The North West hospital in Villefranche-sur-Saône, France, announced on Monday, 15 February 2021 that it had been targeted by a large-scale cyberattack.   -   Copyright  AFPTV
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Health workers in France are already overstretched by the coronavirus pandemic. Now they also have to worry about the threat of cyberattacks paralysing medical facilities.

Three hospital buildings near the city of Lyon have fallen prey this week to hackers using ransomware. This type of attack blocks computer systems and demands a payment in exchange for their release.

The hospital group in Villefranche-sur-Saône has backup procedures to continue to treat most patients, but planned surgical operations have been suspended, and emergencies are being redirected elsewhere near Lyon.

A hospital in Dax in southwestern France was hit by a similar attack just last week, and things there were still not back to normal as of Monday (February 16).

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned overworked hospitals into a prime target for opportunistic online criminals, says Eric Schmitlin, a cybersecurity consultant at Cendium cyberdefense.

"The lack of human and financial resources for IT and cybersecurity, the obsolete software and hardware, all of that, it makes it easier for hackers to attack a hospital rather than, say, a large bank with ample resources," Schmitlin told Euronews.

Despite pleas from French authorities not to give in, some medical facilities are tempted to pay the ransom to be able to continue operating and to protect their patients' data.

"They need to resume care quickly, and that can push some organisations to actually pay the ransom. Add to that the pressure of public opinion, and you get a very good target for organised crime."

Watch the interview in the video player above.