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14 May 2021: Irish health care system was forced to shut down following Friday night after experiencing a “significant ransomware attack”, a week after the largest U.S fuel pipeline network was also targeted.
The HSE department also made a tweet that the major systems were being shut as precautionary measures.
“There has been a ransomware attack on our IT systems,” the Health Service Executive (HSE) wrote in a post on its website. “We have shut them all down as a precaution. This has caused some disruption to our services. But most healthcare appointments will go ahead as planned.”
Affected systems included child protection referrals, covid-19 testing, GP surgeries, and family agency. Despite everything that has happened Ireland’s covid-19 vaccination program has not been affected at all, patients are allowed to book their appointments.
Somehow appointments, cancellation of a portion of virtual appointments of some patients were delayed. Emergency and ambulance services were continued as scheduled for Friday afternoon.
“Most hospital appointments are still going ahead as planned,” HSE wrote. “But delays should be expected while hospitals move to manual, offline processes.”
However, HSE didn’t make any comments reading the attack.
HSE further stated that the attack happened at 4.30 pm on Friday afternoon and soon after as a measure of precaution the IT department switched off the systems in order to protect the data and to give full access to the security team. According to HSE, international criminals might be behind it to extort money, as no demand has been made yet.
“We apologize for the inconvenience caused to patients and to the public and will give further information as it becomes available,” it added, stressing Ireland’s covid-19 vaccination program was unaffected and “going ahead as planned”.
The cybersecurity team supported the HSE department including the Gardai (Eire’s police force), the defense forces, and third-party support teams. The Tanaiste, Leo Varadkar, targeted international criminals behind the attack.
Varadkar said the attack could affect systems throughout the weekend and into next week: “It’s coming at a time when the health service is extremely busy doing lots of other things. It’s going to be a very difficult time for the health service. I spoke to the HSE this morning and also Eamon Ryan, the minister responsible for cybersecurity. It is a situation that’s still evolving.
“There are lots we don’t know, but it appears to be a ransomware attack by international criminals. The problem could run through the weekend and into next week, unfortunately.”
Attacks like these on health services affect the ongoing situation and the patients who need treatment. This also makes delays in encrypted machines, causing them to stop working and making these lifesavers inaccessible.
“If this continues into Monday we will be in a very serious situation and we will have to cancel more appointments,” Ms. O’Connor told RTÉ’s News at One.