Ireland’s health care system taken down after ransomware attack

St. Vincent's University Hospital in Dublin, Ireland.

Enlarge / St. Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin, Ireland.
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Ireland has shut down most of the major IT systems running its national health care service, leaving doctors unable to access patient records and people unsure of whether they should show up for appointments, following a “very sophisticated” ransomware attack.

Paul Reid, chief executive of Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE), told a morning radio show that the decision to shut down the systems was a “precautionary” measure after a cyberattack that impacted national and local systems “involved in all of our core services.”

Some elements of the Irish health service remain operational, such as clinical systems and its COVID-19 vaccination program, which is powered by separate infrastructure. COVID tests already booked are also going ahead.

However, the system for processing referrals from GPs and of close contacts is down, the HSE tweeted, adding that those in need of testing should go to walk-in centers, which would prioritize symptomatic cases.

“This is having a severe impact on our health and social care services today, but individual services and hospital groups are impacted in different ways. Emergency services continue, as does the @AmbulanceNAS [National Ambulance Service],” health minister Stephen Donnelly wrote on Twitter.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, though Reid said on Friday morning that it involved “Conti, human-operated ransomware,” referring to the type of software used. He added that the HSE had not yet been served with a ransom demand.

“We are at the very early stages of fully understanding the threat, the impact, and trying to contain it,” he said, adding that the HSA was receiving assistance from the Irish police force, defense forces, and third-party cyber support teams.

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