Tuesday 20 August 2019

International cyber attack hits Wexford health facility

How one version of the ransomwear appears on screen.
How one version of the ransomwear appears on screen.

By Esther Hayden

A Wexford town healthcare facility is at the centre of the WannaCry ransomware crisis.

The centre, which provides day and residential care, is run by a voluntary company and is partly funded by the Health Service Executive but is not part of its IT network.

On Friday staff at the centre, which is located in Wexford town, noticed that something had gone awry with its systems but were unaware that it was connected to the global crisis which was starting to emerge.

However, once news of the WannaCry ransomware crisis broke on Saturday the staff realised the magnitude of the attack and the HSE were contacted.

When the IT system at the town centre facility became comprised on Friday staff immediately shut down the system.

When the HSE became aware of the problem on Saturday it deployed IT specialists to the centre to help it to deal with the issue and remain confidence that the malware hadn't spread to its systems or comprised the HSE security systems adding the problem had been isolated.

The HSE said: 'There are approximately 1,500 devices (nationally that are considered either threatened or targeted devices. This includes devices that deliver diagnostic imaging (NIMIS) and Bio-Medical Device control machines.

'Anti-virus updates are being installed in these devices, but it is expected this process and testing will take a number of days.

On Monday it was revealed that three hospitals in Ireland were targeted by the international cyber attack.

HSE officers however said they were able to isolate around 20 affected machines quickly from the rest of the network.

This meant the spread of the computer infection was halted in time before it infected other machines.

'They were quickly isolated,' a spokeswoman for the HSE said. 'We are not naming the hospitals. It's just to allow the hospitals themselves to deal with it and so that patients are not unduly concerned. Patient care is broadly unaffected.'

In a statement, the Department of Communications said: 'While a number of systems have been targeted, it appears at this point that only one active incident has arisen in Ireland.

'It appears that a small centre funded by the HSE in Wexford has been affected by the malware behind the present cyber attack. They are not actually connected to the HSE network and do not pose a broader risk.

'Thankfully the threat was isolated and was prevented from spreading.'

They said the centre was removed from the incoming email list, and the affected hardware was removed from the system.

They also said that the remaining equipment has also been patched. Finally, they said that the National Cyber Security Centre is also involved, providing assistance and support as required.

Minister for Communications Denis Naughton said there is no need for patients to be concerned.

Richard Browne, Director of the National Cyber Security Centre, said that the malware in question is very large and is spreading rapidly.

He said many people will have put in place contingency plans to deal with something like this and that many Government departments and agencies have been working through the weekend to make sure adequate anti-virus software is in place.

However, he said it was 'early days' in establishing exactly what they are dealing with and the full extent of the attack may not be known until tomorrow morning.

Mr Browne advised that people should make sure their anti-virus software is up to date and that machines are backed up as often as possible. He said it is inevitable that we will see more of these types of attacks and that the State has had a national cyber security plan in place since 2015.

As the nature of these incidents is constantly changing, forthcoming legislation on protecting critical national infrastructure will be vital.

Wexford People

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