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Cyberattack on Medical Software Shows Industry Vulnerability

  • Nuance’s transcription service still affected weeks later
  • Hospitals are among most frequently targeted, KPMG says

Many doctors still can’t use a transcription service made by Nuance Communications Inc. three weeks after the company was hit by a powerful, debilitating computer attack.

Hospital systems including Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center said eScription, a Nuance staple product that allows physicians to dictate notes from a telephone, still isn’t functioning. The outage obliterated doctors’ instructions to patients, forcing some to revert to pen and paper.

The computer virus, called Petya, has sent ripples through health care, among the last industries to make the switch to digital record keeping and one of the most frequently targeted by hackers, said Michael Ebert, a partner with KPMG who advises health and life-science companies on cybersecurity.

“Health care has been late to respond to the need for protected information, and the information is worth more,” Ebert said. “It’s amazing how far behind we are, and we know we have to do something.”

Hackers increasingly use viruses to encrypt companies’ information systems, unlocking the data only when a ransom is paid. After the Petya attack began in late June, companies from Oreo-maker Mondelez International Inc. to Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc warned of a blow to their sales. Information systems used by FedEx Corp.’s TNT unit may never fully recover, the shipping company said Monday.

Nuance shares fell 4 percent on Thursday, the most since Aug. 9, 2016, to close at $16.85. They’ve dropped almost 8 percent since...