Ireland’s national health service offers sitrep after ransomware attack knocked systems offline

The Health Service Executive is working to restore servers and devices

Ireland’s national health service said patients requiring non-urgent care should expect “significant delays” after a ransomware attack shut down systems across the country.

The country’s Health Service Executive (HSE), which oversees healthcare in the Republic of Ireland, released a statement last night (May 17) following the incident, which knocked systems offline. Disruption to its services is expected to continue into the week.

The HSE is currently working to restore its IT systems and said it was working with authorities and cybersecurity experts.

The agency said: “There are serious concerns about the implications for patient care arising from the very limited access to diagnostics, lab services, and historical patient records.”

It added: “Our priority is keeping our patients safe and maintaining essential care and support services.”

Clean-up operation

The HSE said it is “clear” that some data has been encrypted, and has also stated it would not pay the ransom demand.

Offering an update on the situation, the healthcare agency said approximately 2,000 IT patient facing systems are currently being put through a “rigorous process of assessment and recovery”.

An additional 80,000 HSE-managed devices will also be assessed, while progress is already underway to clean up servers and restore internet access.

The HSE said: “This is in line with the pace we had anticipated, and is a stepped, methodical process, to mitigate the risk of re-infection.

“We are also looking at interim solutions to get some servers back online in a proven safe way.”

Victim of crime

Brian Honan, CEO of BH Consulting and head of Ireland’s Computer Security Incident Response Team (IRISS-CERT) told The Daily Swig: “We have to remember the HSE are the victims of a crime and should be viewed that way.

“The people responsible for the crime are the criminals behind this attack and that is where our focus should be.

“Later, when all systems are restored then a review can be held to determine if things could have been done more effectively.”

Honan added that ransomware is rife in Ireland, which is “no different than many other countries with ransomware attacks being quite common”.

He added: “We have assisted several companies recover from such attacks. Ransomware and Invoice Redirection Fraud are currently the two major threats facing Irish organizations.”

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