FBI informs Texas hospital officials of classified security threats

FBI officials met with more than 100 leaders from MD Anderson Cancer Center, Texas Medical Center — both in Houston — and roughly 18 other hospitals and health systems across the state Aug. 8 to warn officials about possible security threats from foreign entities, according to the Houston Chronicle.

FBI officials who spoke with the Houston Chronicle after the three-hour meeting said the goal was to understand how academic medical institutions can better partner with the FBI to prevent the theft of intellectual property and research. Officials said "inside threats," or employees of an institution, pose the No. 1 risk to academic medical institutions. The FBI said the academic community prides itself on maintaining free and open discourse and may find it hard to believe their employees may not have the best intentions toward the institution and the nation, the report states.

Government officials reportedly provided hospital leaders with "classified information about direct threats, both in Houston and nationally," one FBI official told the Houston Chronicle.

The gathering in Houston was the first step in a new initiative the federal agency plans to replicate around the country.

"We want to establish, cultivate, and enhance public-private relationships to mitigate attempts by foreign adversaries to steal from our institutions for their benefit. It is incumbent on us, given the importance of medical and academic institutions in Houston, to create platforms to share information to mitigate the risks and prevent theft," an FBI official said to the Houston Chronicle.

William McKeon, president and CEO of Texas Medical Center, told the publication the information presented Aug. 8 was not new to him, as he had spoken with the FBI several times during the past year. However, he said the meeting was likely "a real eye-opening experience" for other leaders in attendance.

"The TMC is definitely vulnerable, given the amount of research and materials and physicians present. There's a lot at stake here, and cyberattacks almost daily. For many of these countries, the fastest way to improve their economies is to steal technology, not develop it themselves," he said.

To access the full report, click here.

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