By Greg Argos

KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. (CBS) — A nationwide cyberattack hits home. It has crippled operations of a health care giant as it battles the coronavirus pandemic.

It could be one of the largest cybersecurity breaches in U.S. history and it targeted computers of a major hospital system based out of King of Prussia.

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“It seems like it’s a ransomware attack,” said Drexel University professor and cybersecurity expert Rob D’Ovidio. “Has infected the network that is run by the hospital system with code that essentially locks up databases.”

This weekend, Universal Health Services, which operates more than 400 locations, including six behavioral health centers and clinics in our region, started seeing all the telltale signs of the attack.

“It prevents access to your data and to your applications and to the use of the network,” said D’Ovidio.

He says this attack could have life or death implications.

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“Medical professionals don’t have access to test results that are waiting to come back. Don’t have access to which drugs and which medications people in the hospital need and this can really have an impact,” D’Ovidio said.

D’Ovidio says this cyberattack could of course be dangerous for some patients, but it could be very costly for Universal Health Services Inc., which could shell out a lot of money to get their data back.

“We’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said.

UHS has not formally acknowledged the breach, simply releasing this statement on their website quote:

“The IT Network across Universal Health Services (UHS) facilities is currently offline, due to an IT security issue.

We implement extensive IT security protocols and are working diligently with our IT security partners to restore IT operations as quickly as possible. In the meantime, our facilities are using their established back-up processes including offline documentation methods. Patient care continues to be delivered safely and effectively.

No patient or employee data appears to have been accessed, copied or misused.”

Even so, D’Ovidio says this should be a learning lesson for everyone when it comes to internet safety.

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“Organizations want to make sure they have business continuity plans in place,” he said. “You and I want to make sure we have even on our home computers, a good backup plan in place.”