HSE cyber attack: What happened and how have services been impacted?

Covid vaccinations going ahead but booking portal and testing referral system is down

A cyber attack has forced the HSE to shut down its IT systems on Friday, which Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said was having “a severe impact” on health and social care services. Here is what we know so far.

- There were “two or three” distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks on parts of the HSE system on Thursday, which were regarded as routine at the time. The email system in Beaumont Hospital went down yesterday, for example, and the IT department had to individually reset the passwords for user.

- The main attack began at around 4.30am on Friday and health service IT staff responded by switching off the systems as a precaution. HSE chief Paul Reid believes the attack was carried out by people seeking to extort money, though none has been requested so far.

- Problems accessing electronic records means the cancellation of and disruption to services at hospitals is likely until the issues are resolved. For example, services at the National Maternity Hospital and the Rotunda Maternity Hospital in Dublin have been affected. The latter said that people should only come for scheduled appointments if 36 or more weeks into their pregnancy or if there is an emergency. It is understood a system for radiological imaging used in many of the State’s hospitals has also been impacted.


- The system for Covid-19 vaccinations has not been affected and such appointments are going ahead as planned, though the registration portal has been shut down. In addition, because GPs are affected, they cannot refer patients for Covid-19 testing. People with symptoms are therefore being told to go to one of the walk-in testing centres currently open.

- People awaiting the result of a Covid-19 test will also be affected. “There may be some delay in receiving your test results, we are asking the public to bear with us while we implement a new process to provide results with an initial focus on detected results,” the HSE said. “It is critical that anyone who is awaiting a Covid-19 test result, self isolates until they receive their test result. This is an important change from the usual restricting movements advice.”

- Tusla said its internal systems, email and portal through which child protection referrals are made are not operating. The child and family agency said this was for "security reasons" as they are hosted on the HSE's IT network. "Any person wishing to make a referral about a child can do so by contacting the local Tusla office in their area," it said, adding that details of the local offices are available on tusla.ie.

- The attack is regarded as “fairly sophisticated” by way of comparison to previous ones. The intention is to restart individual elements of the IT system once they have been risk assessed and cleared, but the process could continue into the weekend.