(ArsTechnica) – Ireland has shut down most of the major IT systems running its national healthcare 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, told a morning radio show that the decision to shut down the systems was a “precautionary” measure after a cyber attack 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 it was receiving assistance from the Irish police force, defence forces and third-party cyber support teams.
The master of Dublin’s Rotunda Maternity Hospital said it was advising patients who were less than 36 weeks pregnant not to present for appointments on Friday. In a statement, Cork University Hospital said patients should present for outpatient appointments, chemotherapy and surgery “unless you are contacted to cancel,” but that X-ray and radiotherapy appointments for Friday were cancelled.
Professor Donal O’Shea, consultant endocrinologist at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin, told RTE radio that there could be implications for patient care. “Clinical systems haven’t been targeted, but if you can’t access your computer, then getting results is impossible… so before long, there are going to be clinical implications,” he said. In its statement, Cork University Hospital said “only emergency bloods” would be processed at this time. Read Full Article >