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Suspected case of ransomware detected in Wexford health centre

The NHS in the UK was attacked by hackers yesterday leading to fears the Irish system could be targeted.

Image: Mark Schiefelbein

Updated: 6pm

THE HSE HAS confirmed that its IT system has not been compromised after a suspected case of ransomware occurred in a health care centre in Wexford.

The affected computer system is not part of the HSE’s internal system but instead belongs to a centre which receives HSE funding, according to RTÉ.

Just two hours ago, Communications Minister Denis Naughten had told TheJournal.ie that hackers had attempted to access the HSE’s internal network but had been unsuccessful.

It is believed the suspected case in Wexford has been contained and will not spread to other systems. The HSE is helping the health centre with IT support.

Earlier today, Naughten said the international attack is “unprecedented” in its size. He admitted that the HSE had been targeted by the hackers but that they had been “rebuffed” thanks to the internal security system in place.

He said: “There has been attempts in relation to the HSE infrastructure but thankfully they have been rebuffed. This is being monitored on an ongoing basis. There is no guarantee we will avoid an attack but steps are being taken to minimise that.”

(If you can’t view the video. please click here.)

In a statement this afternoon, the HSE said it is taking precautions to ensure 1,500 electronic devices are not at risk.

Devices that deliver diagnostic imaging (NIMIS) and biomedical control machines are among the electronics which are being protected.

Among organisations affected by the international hacking onslaught were computer networks at hospitals in Britain, Russia’s interior ministry, the Spanish telecom giant Telefonica and the US delivery firm FedEx and many other organisations.

A spokesperson for the Department of Communications said that there had been no reports of malware attacks, and the National Cyber Security Centre was monitoring the situation.

“The attack is a ransomware or cryptolocker type event, a relatively common low-level form of cyber attack usually aimed at extorting relatively small sums of money,” the spokesperson said.

Overnight, the HSE’s IT department has been working closely with the organisations that deliver technology to the health system regarding assurance and levels of preparedness for this recent cyber-attack.

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The statement read: “Anti-virus updates are currently being installed in these devices and a process of testing is underway. As there are approximately 1,500 devices it is expected that this process will take a number of days to complete.

The HSE’s IT National Service Desk has been placed on high alert to support all staff queries and actions on this matter.

“Staff have been extremely supportive during this difficult time. All Health Services staff are advised to have an increased level of digital vigilance while this cyber threat exists. They are advised “if you don’t know the source, don’t click it”.

With reporting by Christina Finn

Read: No reports of computer virus attacks in Ireland following global hacking >

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