December 14, 2018

Extortionists target US hospitals with bomb threats, demanding $20,000 in Bitcoin

Daily Briefing

    Business, governments, and other institutions—including hospitals—across the United States and Canada on Thursday responded to bomb threats demanding a ransom in Bitcoin, though law enforcement officials have since said the threats are "NOT considered credible."

    Bomb threats issued across US and Canada

    Bomb threats were reported Thursday in major cities as well as rural areas throughout the United States. According to media reports, the threats were reported in at least 14 states and Washington D.C.

    Police in New York City, for instance, said they were monitoring "multiple bomb threats that have been sent electronically to various locations throughout the city." However, the police later determined that the threats were not credible. The police said it appears the threats were "meant to cause disruption and/or obtain money."

    Extortionists in the threats were seeking $20,000 in Bitcoin payments.

    While many locations received emailed bomb threats, some also received phone calls, including Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, where a caller claimed to have "multiple explosive devices" inside the school, according to Mike Taplin, a spokesman for the Jackson County Sherriff's Office.

    In Canada, there were 10 threats in Ottawa, five in Montreal, and an unspecified number of threats in British Columbia, Calgary, and Winnipeg, according to NBC News.

    How hospitals responded

    A number of hospitals received bomb threats on Thursday. According to Becker's Hospital Review, many of the hospitals targeted were small, rural facilities. 

    At Wishek Hospital in North Dakota, the bomb threat arrived at about 1:30 p.m. CST, according to the hospital. Law enforcement was immediately notified and the hospital issued a lockdown, allowing police to sweep the facility.

    The sheriff said the sweep came back clean.

    Tioga Medical Center and Jacobson Memorial Hospital Care Center were also among those who received bomb threats in North Dakota.

    Comanche County Medical Center in Texas received a bomb threat at around 12:30 p.m. CST and immediately launched bomb threat procedures and began evacuating patients. Comanche County law enforcement and the Texas Bomb Squad performed a sweep of the hospital, and patients returned at around 2:30 p.m., according to Jennifer Tucker, the hospital's CNO. The hospital said its Doctor's Medical Clinic and the retail pharmacy remained closed for the rest of the day.

    Coleman County Medical Center in Texas also received a call that activated its bomb threat protocol at around 1 p.m. CST. The hospital evacuated patients to Holiday Hills, a local nursing home, Melissa Ereman, the hospital's CNO, said. Ereman said the evacuation lasted until 4 p.m while "the sheriff's department, police department, [and] fire department" checked the facility (Silva, NBC News, 12/13; Berman, Washington Post, 12/13; Dreyfuss, Wired, 12/13; Jacobo et. al., ABC News, 12/13; Croft, CNN, 12/13; Reuters, 12/13; Darnay, MyNDNow, 12/13; Bethel, AP/Abilene Reporter-News, 12/13; Rappleye, Becker's Hospital Review, 12/14).

    From bomb threats to hurricanes: How can hospitals prepare for disasters?

    Hospitals must be prepared for myriad disasters that can stress health care systems to the breaking point and disrupt delivery of vital health care services.

    Advisory Board has compiled step-by-step procedures for various threats your facility may encounter—though we hope you'll never need to use them.

    Download the Resources

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