The Irish Health Service (HSE) has been hit by a “very significant” ransomware attack, which forced it to shut down its IT systems, causing some disruption.
The attack, which was discovered overnight, has affected the national and local systems of the Irish health service.The HSE wrote on Twitter that it temporarily shut down many of its major systems as a precaution.
Affected systems include systems used to manage GP practices, referrals for Covid-19 testing, and referrals for child protection to the National Agency for Children and Families. However, Ireland’s Covid-19 vaccination program has not been affected:
people have been instructed to continue to book and attend appointments. Life-saving equipment, such as that used in intensive care units, continues to function normally, as do all emergency services, GP systems and pharmacy systems.
There are “big problems” with radiology, radiation oncology, elective surgery and obstetrics and gynecological appointments services. A paper administration is used while systems are not available.
HSE CEO Paul Reid said people with outpatient appointments should still be there unless or until they hear otherwise, describing the precautions as “more or less IT systems and transferring information over networks.
” Professor Fergal Malone, the master of the Rotunda hospital in Dublin, asked women not to attend appointments there scheduled for Friday unless they are more than 36 weeks pregnant or have an emergency.
Holles Street National Maternity Hospital warned of “significant disruption” as a result of the attack, but wrote in a tweet that patients should continue to attend appointments as usual.
“We have been the subject of a very important, major ransomware attack,” said Reid. “It’s a very sophisticated attack. It affects all of our national and local systems that would be involved in all of our core services. We were aware of it overnight and acted on it right away.
The immediate priority, of course, is to do this. Speaking to RTE’s Morning Ireland, he stated that the HSE was the target of a human-operated ransomware attack.
He said no ransom requests have yet been received and that as the day progressed, HSE would gain clarity on the matter, its consequences and how to proceed with the attack. The HSE is supported by national cyber security teams, including the Gardai (Ireland Police), the armed forces and third party support teams.
The Tanaiste, Leo Varadkar, blamed “international criminals” for the attack. Varadkar said the attack could affect systems all weekend and into the next week: “It comes at a time when the health department is extremely busy with a lot of other things.
It’s going to be a really difficult time for the health department. I spoke this morning with HSE and also with Eamon Ryan, the minister responsible for cyber security, a situation that is still developing.
“There are many we don’t know, but it appears to be a ransomware attack by international criminals. Unfortunately, the problem could run through the weekend and into the next week.
” Brooks Wallace of Deep Instinct noted, “Unfortunately, the greater the criticism. and the business or human impact of an attack, the more likely the victim is to pay.
Healthcare organizations are at the top of the human impact chain, but they are also very vulnerable to cyber-attacks because they often do not have significant IT security budgets to invest in the most comprehensive protection options.
“” The consequences of these attacks can affect health professionals and their patients who need treatment. These attacks can slow down the coded machines, cause the medical equipment health workers use to stop working, and make potentially life-saving equipment inaccessible.
“Steve Bradford, a senior vice president at SailPoint, added : “Outdated IT systems have little chance against these attacks, which are becoming increasingly sophisticated in nature.
A simple click on a link or web popup is all it takes to let the hackers in and bring everything to a halt. Organizations must implement multiple security controls, enlisting the help of technologies such as AI that can help identify vulnerabilities.
This is critical to reduce the risk of ransomware and other malicious malware threats. Blame for the May 2017 WannaCry attack, which hit NHS services and other organizations around the world, was on North Korean hackers.