Cyberattack: No stone unturned in Government response, says Minister

Stolen HSE data expected to be released online from Monday as ransom will not be paid

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath: ‘This is a criminal activity that has been perpetrated on the Irish State and the innocent victims who are Irish patients.’ Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath: ‘This is a criminal activity that has been perpetrated on the Irish State and the innocent victims who are Irish patients.’ Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

The Government’s response to the cyberattack on the HSE by Russian hackers has left no stone unturned short of paying a ransom, a senior Minister has said.

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath said the State’s response has been comprehensive, with a full use of State resources to counter the attack, as well as working with international partners, including Europol and Interpol.

“This is a criminal activity that has been perpetrated on the Irish State and the innocent victims who are Irish patients,” Mr McGrath told RTÉ. He said that personal and sensitive information held by the HSE was now in the hands of criminals.

Other Government sources said on Sunday they were expecting that sensitive data from the stolen files would begin to appear online this week, if the previous practices of criminal hackers were followed.

Mr McGrath said the State had taken out a High Court injunction against the release of data and has received assurances from social media companies as recently as the weekend that any stolen data would be taken down from their platforms as soon as it appeared. It had also engaged cybercrime consultants with a global reputation to advise it on a response.

“The State will not be paying a ransom and we have been unequivocal about that since the very beginning. The release of personal data is a crime,” he said.

Meanwhile, HSE chief executive Paul Reid said good progress is being made in restoring IT systems in the health service following the cyberattack.

However, he acknowledged there is a “high risk” those behind the attack will fulfil their threat to release patient details.

Restoring systems

Steady progress was made over the weekend in restoring systems, Mr Reid said, and the provision of an encryption tool by the cyber-criminals behind the attack has helped. As a result, systems in some hospitals for storing scan results and patient administration details are likely to be restored soon. In other areas, restoration of the system will take weeks.

The HSE is focused on doing “everything we possibly can” to “constrain” the impact of the data breach, Mr Reid said. The encryption tool provided by the cyberattackers is being tested manually on various systems.

The HSE will put in place more senior roles in IT as part of its actions to address the issues that have arisen, he added. In an update on Sunday, the HSE said services were continuing to see substantial disruption.

Blood tests and diagnostics are taking much longer than usual to operate, while emergency departments remain very busy, with high attendances.

Digital radiology systems are now live again in Beaumont and the Coombe, with progress being made in other hospitals.

CervicalCheck appointments are resuming on Monday.

An estimated 50,000 patients attending family doctors have been affected during the first week of the disruption.