Nearly 12,000 Edmontonians have been touched by a ravaging virus impenetrable by conventional medicine.
The stealth-like “core flood” computer virus attacked and spread quickly and silently through Alberta Health Services network for a two-week period in May.
Since the security breach, health officials have determined 11,582 patient files, containing vital information and medical records may have fallen into the wrong hands, though they don’t believe the authority was targeted.
“I’m not a criminal, and don’t have a criminal mind, but if you were to create something like this, it would have to be money motivated,” Alberta Health Services (AHS) vice-president Bill Trafford said, adding the virtual infection is being taken extremely seriously.
Officials with Alberta’s privacy watchdog share the sentiment, assuring potentially affected patients the risk for identity theft is low.
“These guys that create these viruses are always one step ahead of the game,” said Information and Privacy office spokesman Wayne Wood. “Our message is that everyone make sure they’ve got the best protection.”
Regardless, health officials are inspecting all 80,000 AHS computers in the province, tightening security, and re-examining protocol.
The goal now, Wood said, is to determine just how hackers were able to compromise a number of sophisticated anti-virus programs.
“We think it got in through somebody’s computer plugged into the network,” Trafford said, adding the virus’ entry point could have been one of 20,000 machines. “They have to meet our standards, but somebody could have taken their computer home and contracted it that way.”
Patients whose records may have been compromised have been sent letters by the health authority as a warning.
“We take all levels of security very seriously now,” Trafford said. “We believe we’re very good, but there’s always room for improvement.”