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HSE gets access to crucial decryption tool and secures High Court injunction to prevent the sharing of leaked data

An examination is currently being carried out by the National Cyber Security Centre to see if the tool is genuine.

Image: Shutterstock/pinkeyes

Updated May 20th 2021, 7:59 PM

A DECRYPTION TOOL has been made available that may help the HSE to unlock their IT system, after a devastating cyberattack on the health service last Friday.

It comes as the HSE has received a High Court injunction to stop the illegal use of data that may have been stolen during the ransomware attack.

In a statement, the government confirmed that they have been made aware of a decryption tool that is available online and that a “detailed technical process” is taking place to ensure that the key is genuine and will not cause any further damage to the IT system of the HSE.

The examination is currently being carried out by the National Cyber Security Centre alongside other private contractors.

A HSE spokesperson confirmed that investigations would have to be completed before the tool is used on the HSE’s systems.

A spokesperson for the government has said that while it is an encouraging development, the work to repair and restore the HSE’s IT system will still need to be carried out.

“Every effort is being made to restore important aspects of the HSE’s IT infrastructure as soon as possible and the focus remains very firmly on restoring medical services for the many thousands of patients in need of them,” said the government spokesperson.

“It is to be emphasised that the Government has not paid a ransom and will not pay a ransom in respect of this crime.”

“This has been the firm position of the Government from the outset and it will continue to maintain that position.”

High Court injunction

Earlier today, the HSE acquired a court injunction that requires anyone who is possessing HSE data to hand it over and not disclose, trade or deal in the information.

The HSE has said that the order has since been served on the “dark net”.

A spokesperson for the HSE has said that this step is an “important and unprecedented order against those who attacked our IT system, and also against any other parties who have notice of the order and who have obtained patient and other information as a result of the attack.”

HSE Chief Paul Reid said that the order is to act as a deterrent against anyone misusing confidential patient information.

“We understand that it may have limited impact upon those it is served upon – the criminals. However, we take our responsibility to protect our patients’ and our staffs’ confidentiality very seriously, and will take any steps we can to that end,” said Reid.

“The judge called this attack ‘heinous’ and ‘cowardly’, a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly concur.”

The HSE spokesperson said that they will continue to monitor the internet and will take proactive steps to identify if any patient information is published, and then to serve the court order to those who have the information in their possession.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has welcomed the High Court granting the HSE an injunction against the illegal use of data that may have been stolen during the ransomware attack on Friday.

“This evening’s development is very welcome and shows how seriously myself and my colleagues in Government are taking this event,” said Donnelly.

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“The disgraceful cyberattack this week is an attack on the Irish state and all of us who value our health system so highly, particularly in light of the heroic response from all members of our health services in the last year.”

Donnelly emphasised that the government would continue to work on restoring health services.

“We will continue to work with all parties to further the national response and fully reinstate our health services,” said Donnelly.

The Gardaí, who are working in tandem with international policing and security partners, will continue to pursue every option available to investigate those who carried out the cyber attack.

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