Hospitals in Dax and Villefranche-sur-Saône were paralysed by attacks in which hackers blocked telephone systems, forcing the hospitals to disable the internet to prevent the spread of ransomware.
The blocking of networks resulted in patient records being inaccessible, medication, appointments, bed and doctor assignments being impossible to manage.
Patient operations were delaied and some patients were transferred to other hospitals, while hospital staff were forced to revert to paper forms.
The National Agency for Information Systems Security (Anssi) has been working to restore computer networks and recover data, some of which was protected in backups. It is expected to take several weeks before hospitals can return to normal operation.
Speaking at a press conference last week, Macron said the attacks showed France’s “vulnerability and the importance of stepping up and investing“.
According to Anssi, ransomware attacks in France increased by 255% last year compared to 2019, with the increase particularly affecting the healthcare sector, the education system, local authorities and digital service providers.
“It is more urgent than ever to act concretely and collectively on digital security,” said Anssi director general Guillaume Poupard.
There were 27 cyber-attacks on French hospitals in 2020, according to Cédric O, the French minister for digital transition and communications.
This latest incident follows an attack earlier this month on the French insurance company Mutuelle Nationale des Hospitaliers (MHH) that caused its website and telephone platform to crash.
What happened in France could also happen in Italy, as healthcare companies’ information systems can be vulnerable to ransomware attacks. The issue of cyber security must be a priority for future investment.