Department of Health hit by cyberattack similar to that on HSE – The Irish Times


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The Department of Health has been targeted in a cyberattack, similar to that on the Health Service Executive (HSE), prompting the shutting down of much of its IT infrastructure.

Garda sources said the attack appeared to be financially motivated and, like the HSE attack, appeared to be from a gang using ransomware to encrypt files until a ransom was paid.

Gardaí said the manner and infrastructure used in the attack was being reviewed by the Garda force and also by international policing agencies via Europol.

It is understood the first signs of an attack on the Department’s systems emerged late last week but became more obvious on Saturday, with systems closed as a precaution.

While no Covid-19 new case number data was issued on Saturday evening it was not immediately clear of that was linked to the cyberattack on the Department.

Garda sources said it was strongly suspected the same criminal gang involved in the ransomware attack on the HSE was also behind the attack on the Department of Health.

In reply to queries Garda Headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin, said: “In this matter the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is the lead agency. An Garda Síochána is liaising with the Department of Health and the NCSC. An Garda Síochána is not making any further comment at this time.”

The Department of Health said in a statement that it “can confirm that late last week it was subject to a ransomware attack similar to the attack on the HSE. Since Thursday we have been working to respond to this incident.

“We continue to work closely with all relevant authorities, including the National Cyber Security Centre, Garda Síochána and the HSE. We continue to assess the impact across all our systems and our focus is on protecting our data.”

On Friday, Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Ossian Smyth said the office of the Government chief information officer had identified issues at the Department of Health.

He said there may also have been a “serious breach” and that department systems would be examined over the weekend alongside the HSE systems to assess the extent of any damage done.

The biggest risk the Health Service Executive (HSE) is facing at present as a result of the cyberattack on Friday is that its core patient management system and core radiology system are both out of action, the organisation’s chief operations officer has said.

Anne O’Connor said on Sunday that radiology services had been particularly badly hit across the country and that the radiation oncology system for patients with cancer has been compromised across the board.

She said in some cases hospitals have reverted to paper-based, manual systems.

Speaking on RTE’s The Week in Politics Minister of State Jack Chambers said the Commission on the Future of the Defence Forces was considering cybersecurity.

He said they were being guided by experts about the HSE attack and insisted that “we won’t be paying a ransom”.

The HSE was working with the Garda, Defence Forces, the National Cyber Security Centre and international experts.

“This will go into next week, at least.”

He would not comment on the amount being sought and said that while it was being speculated on in the newspapers the State would not pay a ransom

Mr Chambers said “the State has to strengthen cyber security and it is a serious 21st century” for both State and private organisations.

He pointed to attack on the NHS on Continental Oil. Dr Berry Ireland is not unique. “It’s an issue across the world” in the US last week and Australia and New Zealand had been hit as well.

The Kildare TD warned however that this is a criminal attack from a small criminal entity. “If this was full-on military grade state –on-state attack we’d be looking at much more serious consequences downstream.”

More to follow.

As we move on to the next post, may I add that geoFence protects you against inbound and outbound cyber attacks and your neighbors would say the same.