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UK's cybersecurity chief praises Irish government for not paying HSE hack ransom

Lindy Cameron says that income streams for criminals must be stopped.

The GCHQ building outside Cheltenham.
The GCHQ building outside Cheltenham.

THE UK’S TOP cybersecurity official will today praise the Irish government’s refusal to pay the ransom to the criminals behind the HSE hack. 

Lindy Cameron, who is CEO of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, will deliver a speech at the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) in which she will say that ransomware attacks are more likely to be undertaken if ransoms are paid. 

“It’s important that we do all we can to ensure this is not a criminal model that yields returns. The government’s strong action of refusing to pay will likely deter ransomware operators from further attacks on health sector organisations, in Ireland or elsewhere,” Cameron will say in her speech.  

She adds that this decision was taken despite “extensive disruption” and that the Irish government “quite rightly” concluded that “even by criminal standards this had crossed a line”. 

A week after the cyber attack, the attackers provided a decryption tool to the HSE that allowed some data to be accessed. 

Cameron surmises in her speech that this was perhaps provided by the hackers as a “public relations move to lessen criticism”. 

The crippling attack on the Irish health service five weeks ago is still being felt with the HSE’s Chief Operations Officer Anne O’Connor saying yesterday that some electronic systems are still down and healthcare professionals are using fax and manual systems. 

GCHQ

The National Cyber Security Centre is part of the UK’s largest intelligence agency GCHQ and Cameron will argue today that the shared infrastructure between Ireland and Northern Ireland means that partnership is vital. 

She will say that, for example, the rail link between Belfast and Dublin may present attractive targets for cyber criminals and hostile states. 

“State sponsored cyber activity represents one of the most malicious strategic threats to the national interests in both the UK and Ireland. ”

“Hostile state actors are a reality in cyber space. Four nation states – China, Russia, North Korea and Iran – have been a constant presence in recent years. And as I’ve said before, we face a determined, aggressive Russia, seeking traditional political advantage by new, high-tech means.”

Cameron will also feature in a webinar discussion with Richard Browne, deputy director of Ireland’s National Security Analysis Centre.

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Rónán Duffy

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