The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has suspended two analysts for a serious ransomware attack that has exposed the vulnerability of security architecture managed by central government’s technology partner NIC.

It is learnt the AIIMS administration took action against comparatively junior employees of the Computer Facility which strangely is managed not by a professional but a pharmacologist, Professor-in-charge Dr Pooja Gupta, who would know little about such highly technical technological issues.

Hospital sources stated the two were suspended for dereliction of duty without considering their points of view but there is no word whether accountability is being fixed at the NIC and senior levels of AIIMS. For the eighth day, the e-hospital services of AIIMS have remained suspended following a ransomware attack which was noticed on November 23 morning between 6.30 and 7 am when the lab and other linked departments expressed their inability to access their systems, said government sources.

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In the next couple hours, it was clear that e-hospital services that manage OPD, appointment, registration, inventory, billing and lab, among others, have come under the cyber attack, forcing the authorities to shut down the network to prevent further damage, government sources explained.

The NIC e-hospital services are run through 24 servers located at the computer facility area of the AIIMS campus. The servers are further declassified into two -- servers for applications and another set of servers for data-base. There is another set of servers in the dental department just for the laboratory information system that remained uninfected. Government sources said that loopholes in the cyber security architecture were flagged in the past but were overlooked, it seems.

After restoring the e-hospital data, the forensic examiners and technical heads from multi-government agencies are working to sanitise the network before making servers live for running, said hospital sources. The hospital services continue to function in manual mode with AIIMS medical suprintendent Dr DK Sharma told the media that additional staff have been deployed in OPD and registeration to manage the situation.

Patients in discomfort

Patients, however, continue to face discomfort as the issue is still not yet resolved. . The hospital administration is tight-lipped over ₹200 core ransomware that hackers are said to have demanded and on the data compromisel.

Cyber-law expert Prashant Mali told Hindubusinessline that the cyber attack projected the country in bad light exposing how poorly managed e-hospital governance is. “More than the ransomware, the AIIMS hospital authorities should come out clean on the personal and family data of people and ministers and other VVIPs. More than that, was there any back up for servers” Mali asked.

Besides, Delhi police’s Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations (IFSO) unit registering a case of extortion and cyber terrorism, multi-agencies like NIA, DRDO, CERT-In and intelligence agencies are also working alongside owing to the suspicion that an inimical neighbouring country may have been associated with the cyber attack that has exposed fragility of the virtual public health care system governments at the centre and state have been following.