Ireland’s public healthcare system, HSE (Health Service Executive), has been forced to shut down its computer systems as hospital administrators became aware of a ‘significant ransomware attack’ on Thursday evening.
HSE took to Twitter this morning to release a statement: “There is a significant ransomware attack on the HSE IT systems. We have taken the precaution of shutting down all our IT systems in order to protect them from this attack and to allow us fully assess the situation with our own security partners.”
The incident will cause major disruption for patients today, as a number of hospitals are expected to experience cancellations and disruptions. All appointments at the Rotunda Maternity Hospital have been cancelled, with the exception of emergency cases.
HSE boss Paul Reid confirmed that the ransomware was affecting all national and local systems this morning, although it is largely an IT system issue; life-saving equipment in hospitals are not affected and COVID vaccinations are continuing to go ahead as planned. Registration and record-keeping are currently being carried out with pens and paper.
It is not clear if the hackers have succeeded in acquiring enough data to hold to ransom. Paul Reid has said: “There has been no ransom demand at this stage. The key thing is to contain the issue; we are in the containment phase.”
Cybersecurity expert Brian Honan spoke on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland this morning, warning of the risk of double extortion: “You are dealing with criminals, there is no guarantee that there will be no additional costs or that you will get the information back.”