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HSE on alert after previous threat from cyber criminals to publish hacked data today

It’s already been confirmed that patient data from the hack has appeared on the dark web

Image: Shutterstock

THE HSE HAS said it is working closely with social media companies as part of efforts to prevent private medical data from Irish patients being shared online. 

Hackers who targeted the HSE with a large-scale ransomware attack have reportedly threatened to release information today. 

It’s already been confirmed that patient data from the hack has appeared on the dark web and the HSE is warning people to be wary of potential scams.  

Taoiseach Micheál Martin told RTÉ’s Claire Byrne that there is no evidence yet of the mass dumping of information, but he said the gardaí, the cyber-secuirty teams and the HSE are working together and scouring for any evidence of the leaked information. 

He said the authorities are monitoring it all “very, very closely”.

Martin said if anybody has any suspicions or if anybody comes across any data, they shouldn’t share it, but should report it to gardaí.

Last week, the HSE obtained a high court injunction which means it is a criminal offence to share or redistribute HSE patient data. 

The Taoiseach said he did not know why the government was given the decryption key that has unlocked and allowed a number of health services to resume.

He reiterated that a ransom would not be paid, but added that the hackers may not have realised that they had taken on an entire State or government or health service, adding that the data is “perhaps where they see some value”. 

“These are criminals who will seek to exploit this data, but again, we’ve had very good cooperation with social media companies who’ve been very proactive with the government in relation to this and have agreed to shut down anything and take it down as quickly as they see anything,” said the Taoiseach. 

He said it is important to work on a team-based approach across Europe, stating that Poland “were very helpful in the early phase of this attack because they had suffered from something similar”. 

He also said the UK had been very helpful to the Irish government. The Taoiseach said he would be communicating with his EU colleagues on what has happened at today’s EU Council meeting in Brussels.

HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry told The News at One that staff are working through a paper-based system to ensure “no errors are made” in the care of patients.

“They’re having to deal with paper-based reports, linking those reports to requests, conveying those results back to people, all of which means the capacity of labs, for example, is a fraction of what it was before the cyber attack.”

Also, I have ongoing concerns with the safety of the care we are giving, given that it is so much slower and so much more prone to errors being made because of our reliance on paper-based systems.

He said that nurses and doctors were contacting patients and GPs to ensure that care is administered safely, but added that it was “extremely difficult”.

On the encryption key given to the State by the hackers, Dr Henry said that it was “only one part of the fix which will take many weeks to come”.

Speaking on yesterday’s This Week programme on RTÉ Radio One, HSE CEO Paul Reid said he is aware the injunction may not impact the actions of criminals but that it is important nonetheless. 

He added that the HSE is also working with social media companies to reduce the risk to patient data. 

“We’re well aware that the court order may not have an impact in terms of criminals involved here, but we are working very closely with the social media platforms. They’ve been very collaborative, separate to the court order process. They are working strongly with us to scan, and we also have a company ourselves deployed, to scan to assess what has been applied,” he said. 

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Reid also said that the HSE has made some “good progress” in getting some imaging systems such as scans back online, adding that the decryption tool provided has helped the process. 

The CEO also reaffirmed the importance of garda involvement in the investigation, urging anyone who fears they may have been impacted to call the dedicated helpline: 1-800-666-111

With reporting by Christina Finn

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Rónán Duffy

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