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Saturday 19 August 2017

Cyber attack targets two Dublin hospitals

The HSE shut down all inward emails to defend against the ransomware virus which targeted Dublin’s main hospitals. Stock photo: GETTY
The HSE shut down all inward emails to defend against the ransomware virus which targeted Dublin’s main hospitals. Stock photo: GETTY

Two of Dublin's main hospitals are believed to have been the target of cyber attacks in recent days.

Our Lady's Hospital, in Crumlin, and the Rotunda Maternity Hospital are understood to have been among the major centres which were targeted by hackers who tried to infect their computer systems with the WannaCry ransomware.

However, in a statement, the Rotunda Hospital said that they were not targeted by the cyber attacks.

"The Rotunda Hospital was not targeted by the recent cyber attacks. The hospital has, and continues to follow the guidelines as set by the HSE in relation to this matter."

However, the HSE said the ransomware virus, which is capable of spreading across a computer network, had been thwarted and it had not infected any device in the health system.

Richard Corbridge, HSE chief operations officer, yesterday confirmed the attempts to attack computer systems across the health service had been as "virulent" as in other countries.

He declined to provide the names of hospitals targeted but said some of the major centres were focused on.

A key defence was the decision of the HSE to shut down all inward emails from Friday, removing one of the main weapons in the hackers' arsenal.

It also shut its own internal emailing system on Friday in an action which will be extended until tomorrow morning.

"We want to ensure we capture all of the risks we can," he said.

"This needs to be done before opening up the health service to incoming emails that might pose a threat."

Surveillance

The HSE IT team has put anti-viral protection in place around 56,000 devices, including MRI scan machines.

Yesterday's surveillance uncovered ransomware viruses, different from the current threat, which had previously tried to hack into three hospitals.

The threat involved around 20 machines which were isolated yesterday.

The current ransomware is particularly virulent because of its ability to spread across a computer system.

Mr Corbridge said that in a small number of cases in the last year, health service machines had been infected with a ransomware virus but the HSE had not paid a ransom.

"We have a very aggressive back-up policy," he said.

He added it involved rebuilding the machine over a number of hours.

It is understood that hospitals in the Midlands, including Portlaoise, have been the target of previous ransomware viruses.

Meanwhile, Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, expressed concerns about children who may be at risk of abuse as a result of the email shut-down.

A spokeswoman said that due to the threat its inward email system had been frozen, resulting in the organisation not receiving any notifications of child protection and welfare concerns via email since Friday.

"All external emails have been blocked since Friday evening as a precautionary measure while security work is undertaken, and staff currently have no access to emails," she said.

She added that in many situations Tusla relied on referrals from members of the public and organisations to identify children at risk.

"If anyone has reported a child protection concern to Tusla by email since Friday evening, please be advised that this may not have been received," she said.

She asked anyone with a child protection concern to log on to the tusla.ie website where they will obtain details of how to contact their local social work duty team.

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