Ransom-ware cyber-attack making Irish health systems struggle

Ransom-ware cyber-attack
Ransom-ware cyber-attack making Irish health systems struggle

After the ransom-ware cyber-attack on Friday, thousands of diagnostic appointments, cancer treatment clinics and surgeries have been cancelled

On Tuesday, four days after the ransom-ware cyber-attack, Ireland’s health system was still struggling to restore its computers and treat patients, as it had to shut down its entire IT system in response to the attack.

After the ransom-ware cyber-attack on Friday, thousands of diagnostic appointments, cancer treatment clinics and surgeries have been cancelled.

Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said the ransom-ware cyber-attack was a “heinous” one that targeted patients and “the Irish public”. Colm Henry, chief clinical officer at Health Service Executive said the attack had “a profound impact on our ability to deliver care” and has also shut down the system used to pay health care workers.

He told Irish broadcaster RTE that the disruptions would only “mount in the coming days and weeks”.

Ransom-ware cyber-attack is typically carried out by criminal hackers who scramble data, paralyzing victims’ networks, and demand a large payment to decrypt it. Irish officials say a ransom has been demanded but they will not pay it.

According to the ransom negotiation page on its darknet site viewed by The Associated Press, Conti – a Russian-speaking ransom-ware group was demanding $20 million. The gang threatened Monday to “start publishing and selling your private information very soon” if the money was not paid.

“The government will not be paying any money”, Justice Minister Heather Humphreys told broadcaster RTE. “We will not be blackmailed”.

People were urged by the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine for not turning up at hospitals’ emergency departments unless they have a genuinely urgent need to do so. It said that electronic ordering of blood tests, X-rays and scans is not available, and clinicians have no access to previous X-rays or scan results. Many hospitals’ telephone systems are also not functioning because they are carried on computer networks, it added.

The Health Service Executive said in a statement late Monday that there were “serious concerns about the implications for patient care arising from the very limited access to diagnostics, lab services and historical patient records”.

The health service said it was working methodically to assess and restore approximately 2,000 IT patient-facing systems, each supported by infrastructure, multiple servers and devices.

“Our priority is keeping our patients safe and maintaining essential care and support services”, it said.

Around the world, ransom-ware cyber-attacks are an increasing problem for private companies and public bodies.

The Thai affiliate of Paris-based insurance company AXA and a public health provider in New Zealand were both dealing with ransom-ware cyber-attack on Tuesday.

Earlier this month, in the US, the nation’s largest fuel pipeline was hit with a ransom-ware cyber-attack. Due to distribution problems and panic-buying, draining supplies at thousands of gas stations, the disruption of the Colonial Pipeline caused long lines at gas stations.

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