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Government bracing for potential release of HSE data

There is a “real risk” of patient information being released despite a High Court injunction.

Image: Shutterstock/Guschenkova

THE GOVERNMENT IS bracing for the potential release of data obtained through the cyber attack on the HSE.

It believes there is a “real risk” of patient information being released despite a High Court injunction against the disclosure or trading of HSE data.

In a statement, the government said that work is ongoing to prevent stolen data being shared and to support anyone who is affected.

“It is a common feature of these kinds of cyber-attacks that the perpetrators steal data. Work to identify the extent of any data taken from the HSE’s IT systems is ongoing as part of the process of repairing the systems,” the statement said.

“The theft and disclosure of medical data would be a particularly despicable crime because it involves sensitive, personal information.  Any public release of this data would be illegal,” it said.

“There is, sadly, is a real risk of patients’ data being abused in this way. The Government is grateful to mainstream media and online services for their support and we appeal to anyone who may comes across this data online not to share it but instead to report it using the tools provided by platforms.”

HSE CEO Paul Reid has said the health service is “seeing a process of weeks, rather than days, of impact”.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s This Week, Reid said there has been some “good, steady progress throughout the weekend and certainly the decryption key and script does help us in the process”.

“What we are doing right now is assessing each of these national systems we want to restore, and which ones we restore, which ones we have to rebuild, which ones we may have to remove. The decryption process helps us in that,” he said.

“Good progress over the weekend, particularly in some of the national systems, like our imaging system, which would support scans, MRI and x-rays, so you’ll probably see some hospitals having access to some of the national systems, including patients’ administration system.

“But it is a slower process throughout next week, and over the next few weeks as well.”

Reid described the cyberattack as an “attack on the state, not just an attack on the health service”.

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The HSE received a High Court injunction to stop data that might have been stolen during the attack being used illegally. The injunction requires anyone possessing the HSE data to return it and not to disclose, trade, or deal in the information.

The public has been advised to be cautious of call and text scams by fraudsters taking advantage of fear around the attack on the HSE. 

Gardaí are asking anyone who believes they are the subject of a scam to contact the Garda confidential line on 1800 666 111.

The decryption tool that might help the HSE to unlock its IT systems was made available online during the week. 

IT experts have since developed and tested a new version of the tool as part of work towards restoring health systems. 

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