Data Security

Security company exec and founder charged with facilitating cyber attack on Georgia hospital

Clinicians perform a tracheostomy on a patient in a COVID-19 ICU Intensive Care Unit in Los Angeles. In the wake of the SolarWinds incident, an increasing number of health care institutions are embarking on threat-hunting missions to seek and destroy exploitable vulnerabilities. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Organizations often look to cybersecurity companies to protect them, but the Department of Justice and prosecutors in Georgia are pursuing criminal charges against a Marietta executive of a security company for aiding an alleged cyberattack on a Georgia medical center in 2018.

An indictment unsealed this week in a Northern District of Georgia court accuses Vikas Singla, 45, with 18 separate counts of aiding and abetting a 2018 cyber attack against the Gwinnett Medical Center in Georgia.

A Department of Justice press release claims the attack involved disrupting phone service, obtaining information from a digitizing device and disrupting network printing services. Singla is being charged with 18 violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, though 16 of those charges involve the same malicious act carried out on 16 different printers.

Prosecutors claim the motives underlying Singla’s actions were “personal profit” and “commercial advantage.”

“Cyberattacks that target important infrastructure, like health care, pose a serious threat to public health and safety,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine for the Northern District of Georgia in a statement. “In this case, Singla allegedly compromised Gwinnett Medical Center’s operations in part for his own personal gain.”

Chris Hacker, an FBIsSpecial agent at the Atlanta field office said the 2018 attack “not only could have had disastrous consequences, but patients' personal information was also compromised.”

The indictment describes Singla as “chief operating officer for a network security company” at the time of the attack but does not name the company. According to Singla’s public LinkedIn profile, he has been chief operating officer for the Atlanta, Georgia-based security firm Securolytics since 2016. A profile of the company on Crunchbase lists Singla as one of two founders of the firm.

According to their website, Securolytics provides security, visibility and monitoring services for internet-of-things devices, including medical devices. While they do not appear to list their customers, their technology partner section includes a number of other cloud security companies, such as Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud, IBM SoftLayer, CloudMark, CloudStat, Image Analyzer and Cyphort.

Gwinnett Medical Center is a non-profit health center that provide health services to at least two nearby hospitals located in Duluth and Lawrenceville, Georgia. The court documents offer little detail about how Singla aided and abetted the attack beyond alleging that he “knowingly caused and attempted to cause the transmission of a program, information, code, and command, and, as a result of such conduct, intentionally caused and attempted to cause damage without authorization to a protected computer.”

Subsequent court documents filed on Friday reveal that Singla was taken into custody and has pleaded not guilty to the charges. His bail bond, set at $20,000, was paid for the same day and a judge signed an order for his release pending a trial.

Derek B. Johnson

Derek is a senior editor and reporter at SC Media, where he has spent the past three years providing award-winning coverage of cybersecurity news across the public and private sectors. Prior to that, he was a senior reporter covering cybersecurity policy at Federal Computer Week. Derek has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from Hofstra University in New York and a master’s degree in public policy from George Mason University in Virginia.

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