The Irish healthcare operator shut down all of its IT systems on Friday to protect it from a “significant” ransomware attack, crippling diagnostic services and forcing hospitals to cancel many appointments.
The country’s COVID-19 vaccination program was not interrupted, but the attack affected computer systems serving all other local and national health services, the head of the Health Service Executive (HSE) said.
The HSE shut down IT systems as a precaution to protect as much information as possible and was assessing how the attack would affect other departments, chief executive Paul Reid said.
Reid said the cyberattack, discovered in the early hours of Friday morning, was a “man-made ransomware attack in which they seek to access data and demand a ransom.”
The HSE had not received a ransom demand “at this stage” and was very early in understanding the threat, he added.
“It’s a very sophisticated attack, not just the standard attack. It affects all of our national and local systems which would be involved in all of our basic services, ”Reid told national broadcaster RTE.
Fortunately, the vaccination program continues, it is a separate system. “
Reid said the attack largely affected information stored on central servers, not hospital equipment.
Dublin’s National Maternity Hospital said on Friday all services would be significantly disrupted. Another maternity hospital in the capital canceled all outpatient appointments for the day other than those for women who are 36 weeks pregnant or in need of urgent care.
At Cork University Hospital, medical oncologist Seamus O’Reilly, his staff, arrived at the city’s largest hospital and found its computer systems paralyzed with all computers turned off.
“Our primary concern is patient safety and the potentially outstanding results, the laboratory data that must be available to manage patient care today. It is very painful for the patients, ”he told RTE.
Ransomware attacks typically involve the infection of computers with malware, often downloaded by clicking seemingly harmless links in emails or other website pop-ups. Users are banned from their systems, with the demand for a ransom to be paid to restore computer functions.
They differ from a data breach or other types of hacking, which can steal large batches of customer data or other information from companies or individuals.
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