Irish Health Service Suffers Cyberattack

  • 20th May 2021
  • Michelle Pace
  • Cyber Crime
Irish Health Service Suffers Cyberattack

Irish Health Service Suffers Cyberattack

Hospitals throughout Ireland are experiencing acute appointment delays and cancellations today, 14th May 2021, after the Health Service Executive (HSE) discovered a ransomware cyberattack on the HSE IT systems overnight.

All local and national IT systems have been forcibly closed down, albeit temporarily, as a  precaution in order to further protect them from this attack on the HSE.

HSE Chief Executive Officer Paul Reid has described the attack as quite a significant ransomware attack and told RTÉ, Ireland’s national television and radio broadcaster, that they are “still in the early stages of fully understanding the threat, the impacts and trying to contain them.

He added, “We are working with all of our major IT security providers and the national security cyber team are involved and being alerted, so that would be the major state supports including Garda, the Defence Forces and third-party support teams." 

It is understood that the Garda National Cybercrime Bureau is involved, as is the National Cyber Security Centre and engaging with the HSE and other teams are cooperating with Interpol. 


Original Tweet by HSE

“Ransomware attacks are on the increase. Cybercriminals hack into systems in order to access sensitive data and hold the organisation to a ransom demand. They may threaten to release the data online, permanently encrypt it or delete it. Once the ransom is paid, any compromised data will allegedly be returned. The hackers normally exploit a security flaw in software or spear-phish an employee into unwittingly installing a software virus.”

Master of Rotunda Maternity Hospital in Dublin, Professor Fergal Malone, has stressed that life-saving equipment has not been affected. The attack is concentrated solely on IT systems and that affects healthcare records by accessing data stored on central servers. 

"We use a common system throughout the HSE in terms of registering patients and it seems that must have been the entry point or source. It means we have had to shut down all our computer systems." Professor Malone added.

Rotunda Maternity Hospital has cancelled all outpatient appointments and gynaecological clinics due to what they are calling a ‘critical emergency’. Patients that are 36 weeks pregnant and over, or those with urgent worries are advised to continue as they would normally.

For any other medical reasons, patients have been advised to continue to attend their appointments unless contacted and advised differently. This includes Covid-19 vaccinations, scheduled surgery, chemotherapy treatments, and outpatient appointments. Any virtual appointments will almost certainly be rescheduled.

HSE has pledged assurances that patients are safe and that medical staff will resort to paper-based systems in order to continue with as many appointments as possible. Understandably, operating appointments manually will slow matters down, but it does allow for some continuation where it is essential, such as chemotherapy treatments which are time and tech-dependent. Labs are only running emergency bloods currently.

Until the organisations involved can fully assess the situation, this delay could run into next week. Oncologist Professor Seamus O’Reilly has agreed that the HSE acted quickly but admits that it is distressing for patients waiting for critical and urgent results.

Although the attack has been touted as a ransomware attack, as yet no ransom demand has yet been issued by whoever is behind the system’s cyberattack.

Always make sure you keep passwords safe and use a cybercare product such as McAfee and Cyber DNA. This will help stop you from getting personal ransomware attacks on your devices.