Hospitals and health care systems across the nation and in Massachusetts are facing increased ransomware threats, federal law enforcement and cybersecurity agencies warned, urging organizations to prepare.

The warning from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and FBI said the cybercrime threat to U.S. hospitals and health care providers is “imminent.”

“Without planning, provision, and implementation of continuity principles, organizations may be unable to continue operations,” read the memo.

Officials said the attacks, if successful, could result in financial loss, data theft and even the disruption of health care services.

Jigar Kadakia, chief information security and privacy officer at Mass General Brigham, with members and affiliates throughout the state, said he hasn’t seen any unusual activity to date, but preparing for a cyberattack and remaining vigilant is an ongoing process.

“These are threats that are out there on a continuous basis,” Kadakia said.

He said hackers take advantage of fear, panic and human emotion, feelings that have run high since the pandemic hit.

“There has been an increase in ransomware activities, but the activities I would not say are increased in general ransomware, I would say it’s increased with the focus on COVID-related scams,” Kadakia said.

During a Thursday Massachusetts Cybersecurity Forum, Senate President Karen Spilka said, “We see how vulnerable our hospital systems and state IT systems can be to outside threats. And we know people rely upon these systems.”

She said investments have been made to make sure the right firewalls are in place and training is provided to those charged with protecting systems statewide.

Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association said in a statement, “Hospitals have been on high alert for cybersecurity threats since this crisis began, and we are taking this most recent threat incredibly seriously.”

Herald wire services contributed to this report.


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