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FBI investigating 8-day cyber attack after hackers demanded millions from local provider

RANSOMWARE ATTACK.transfer_frame_792.jpg

The FBI is investigating the ransomware attack that caused a network outage at Allergy Partners locations in the mountains. The attack happened on Feb. 23 and continued for eight days as hackers demanded $1.75 million, according to a report filed with Asheville Police Department. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

Federal authorities are investigating the ransomware attack that caused a network outage at Allergy Partners locations in the mountains.

The attack happened on Feb. 23 and continued for eight days as hackers wanted a king's ransom of $1.75 million, according to a report filed with Asheville Police Department.

Meanwhile, the staff was unable to provide allergy shots at the Asheville and Arden offices.

"Once their system came back up, they were able to get all of our appointments rescheduled," said Chelsea Setzer, a patient at the Arden location.

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The owner of Asheville Computer Company said the health care industry is a common target of ransomware attacks.

"The reason health care providers are a target is the data they have is very valuable to that company and the privacy is valued to their customers," said Aaron Tracy, with Asheville Computer Company.

As he explained, the malware has one job.

"And basically, its job is to take your files and encrypt them behind an unbreakable lock that you don't have the key to, and they offer to give you that key for a certain amount of money -- usually a large amount of money," he said.

"We are working with cyber security firms to investigate the incident and understand the impact," General Counsel Denise Yarborough said in a statement to News 13. "We are thankful to our IT staff, who have been working around the clock to restore our systems so that we have been able to resume normal patient care at a majority of our locations as of Monday, March 1."

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As we continue to investigate, we will provide additional information to patients should the need arise," Yarborough continued.

Tracy said the personal data of Allergy Partners' patients is valuable to hackers.

"They would probably have address, phone number, social security number. Any previous issues you had, or something unrelated to the allergy necessarily," he said.

As a patient, Setzer said she can only hope for the best as the investigation continues.

"Of course, I'm always going to be worried about my personal information and that of my family getting out, but I'm hoping that what they find doesn't result that way," Setzer said.

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