Irish health system struggling to recover from cyberattack

Ireland’s health system struggled to restore computers and treat patients on Tuesday, four days after shutting down its entire information technology system in response to a ransomware attack.

Thousands of clinical visits, cancer treatment clinics and surgeries have been canceled or delayed since Friday’s cyber attack. Officials said hundreds of people were assigned to respond to the attack, but it could take a few weeks for the public health service to return to normal.

Irish Prime Minister Michael Martin said the attack was a “heinous” one that targeted patients and the “Irish public”. The chief clinical officer of Ireland’s Health Services Executive, Colm Henry, said the intrusion “is having a profound impact on our ability to deliver care” and that the disruption will undoubtedly “mount in the coming days and weeks.”

Henry told Irish broadcaster RTE that more than 2,000 patient-facing IT systems were affected, and about 80,000 devices were connected to such systems throughout healthcare. Officers are prioritizing the recovery of systems involved in radiology, radiotherapy and maternal and neonatal services such as patient diagnosis.

“Our experts are focusing this week with external help to ensure that those services do not depend on manual exchange of information,” he said.

Ransomware attacks are typically carried out by criminal hackers who scramble data, paralyze victims’ networks, and demand large payments to decrypt information. Irish authorities say a ransom was demanded but they would not pay it.

Conti, a Russian-speaking ransomware group, was seeking $ 20 million, according to a ransom talk page on its Darknet site, seen by The Associated Press. The gang threatened on Monday that it would “publish and sell your personal information very soon” if it did not receive the money.

“The government will not pay any money,” Justice Minister Heather Humphries told RTE. “We will not be blackmailed.”

The Irish Association for Emergency Medicine urged people not to come to hospital emergency rooms unless they were really urgently needed. The association said electronic tests of blood tests, X-rays and scans were not available and physicians had no access to previous X-rays or scan results.

It added that many hospital telephone systems were also not functioning as they are transported over a computer network. The attack has also shut down the system used to pay health workers.

Patients have expressed disappointment over the attack, describing it as another anguish thrown into an already arduous struggle up to health care during the epidemic.

The primary school teacher, 38-year-old Emier Craig, who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer, had postponed his radiation therapy for some time, while doctors sought to restore his record so that he could recover from it. To treat.

“It’s a very cruel thing for the weak,” Craig told The Associated Press. “We’re fighting every day like it is, and it was just another curve ball that wasn’t needed.”

Ireland’s publicly funded health care system, the Health Services Executive, said in a statement late Monday that “there were serious concerns about the effects of patient care arising from very limited access to diagnoses, laboratory services and historical patient records” . ”

Health Services said it is working systematically to assess its computer systems and restore them.

Ireland’s attack comes as ransomware gangs continue to identify “big game” targets in search of lucrative payments and data that can help them identify new victims – and even their It also determines the amount of cyber-insurance coverage to be done by.

The operations of four Asian affiliates of Paris-based insurance company AXA have been affected by ransomware attacks in recent times: in Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong and the Philippines. The attackers claimed to have stolen 3 terabytes of data, including medical records, customer IDs and privileged communications with hospitals and doctors.

Hackers threatened to leak documents within 10 days if AXA does not pay unspecified ransom.

AXA said this month that it would stop writing cyber-insurance policies in France that reimburse customers for extortion payments made to ransomware offenders, saying the practice encourages more such attacks .

In a new case, ransomware shut down IT systems at five hospitals south of Auckland, New Zealand, forcing doctors to cancel some elective surgeries preventing doctors from accessing clinical records, officials said. Was lying.

Ransomware attacks have increased in the past year, although it may decline after the worst attack on US critical infrastructure. US President Joe Biden swore vengeance after the Colonial Pipeline, which supplies the East Coast with 45% of its petroleum products, remained closed for nearly a week.

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