Ireland’s health service, the HSE, shut down all of its IT systems on Friday after a “significant” ransomware attack that disrupted COVID-19 testing and other patient services. BBC reports. The country’s COVID-19 vaccination program does not appear to have been affected.
A government official explains news channel RTE that an international cyber criminal group is responsible for the attack. “This is not espionage. It was an international attack, but this is just a cybercriminal gang looking for money, ”said Ossian Smyth, Secretary of State for Government Procurement and eGovernment.
Micheál Martin, the country’s Taoiseach (Prime Minister), says Ireland will not pay a ransom.
According to the Financial times, the government received a ransom demand in bitcoin. The attack appeared to affect data stored on the health system’s central servers, RTE reports, but it appeared that no patient data had been compromised.
The HSE tweeted yesterday that it had taken down its IT systems as a precaution to protect them from the attack.
There is a significant ransomware attack on the HSE IT systems. We have taken precautions to shut down all of our IT systems to protect them from this attack and to allow us to fully assess the situation with our own security partners.
– HSE Ireland (@HSELive) May 14, 2021
The attack on Friday seriously affected the country’s health and social care, but emergency services continued to function normally, according to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly. He reiterated that Ireland’s COVID vaccinations are proceeding as planned.
Today was a challenging day for that @HSELive . But amid such a challenge, the vaccination program continues to deliver. Aviva’s vaccination center has surpassed 52,000 vaccinations since it opened – more than the stadium’s capacity! pic.twitter.com/QJ9lmvg14F
– Stephen Donnelly (@DonnellyStephen) May 14, 2021
The attack in Ireland comes less than a week after a similar incident at Colonial Pipeline, which took down one of the largest fuel pipelines in the US. The company reportedly paid nearly $ 5 million in ransom to the attackers to get its systems back online.