Ireland’s health service hit by ransomware

A “significant” ransomware attack has impacted the IT systems of Ireland’s health service, leading the country’s Health Service Executive (HSE) to shut down its entire network.

A ransomware attack is when cybercriminals encrypt data or systems, preventing access to them, usually followed by a ransom demand in exchange for access.

This has led to cancelled appointments and disruptions to Covid-19 testing; however, it has not affected the Irish vaccine roll out.

The HSE has yet to receive a ransom demand.

Paul Reid, chief executive at the HSE, said the impact was focused on information stored on central servers, not on hospital equipment, and that emergency services were still operational.

However, Cork University Hospital, the largest hospital in Ireland's second city, had all its IT systems and computers paralysed.

Ransomware has previously had disastrous impacts on national health services; in 2017, 70,000 devices were shut down by the “WannaCry” ransomware attack, causing severe disruptions to services including MRI machines.

Critical infrastructure continues to be a key target for cybercriminals
; last week, a ransomware attack shut down the entire network of one of the largest fuel pipe operators in the US, Colonial Pipeline.

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