On May 14th, Cyberattackers successfully launched a ransomware attack on the Irish Health System (HSE). A Ransomware attack will involve a Cyberattacker, or group of, exploiting a vulnerability on a system to install malware that will encrypt (lock) important data so it can no longer be accessed. A large fee will then be charged in return for decrypting (unlocking) it.

The attack on the HSE in May was unprecedented affecting almost every part of its healthcare system already worn down by a year of fighting Covid-19.

The systems being offline caused staff to have to revert to an emergency pen and paper system. Which caused service to drop by up to 80% in worst affected areas for days after the attack.

A 36-year-old mother of two, Donna-Marie Cullen, was undergoing treatments at the time of the Cyber-attacks for her Sarcoma, a rare form of aggressive brain cancer. On the first day of the attack she was due essential radiation therapy, which was postponed due to staff being unable to enter the coordinates of the treatment into the machine. She says it took a whole weekend for consultants to rewrite coordinates to resume without a major delay to the service. This left Donna-Marie a whole weekend of worry, if her Sarcoma had spread whilst the services were unavailable it would have been terminal. Luckily, she survived and finished her cancer treatment in May 2021.

The radiology services that were particularly badly affected are back to running at 90% capacity, however the services run slower than before. They also are subject to more crashes and outages which happen sporadically, causing patient throughput to be slower than before the attack.

Whilst 95% of all servers and devices have been restored, the effects of the Cyberattack can still be felt today. It has left the HSE even busier than usual with emergency departments struggling to keep up with all the cancelled appointments due to the Cyberattack.

The HSE were targeted by Cybercriminals because they were detected as having weak network security and identified as having money to be able to pay a ransom fee. It was also known by the attacker that the effect of a Cyberattacker would be catastrophic.

This attack is just one example of the long-term devastation ransomware can have on your business after the initial breach. Months after the initial attack the HSE are yet to restore all devices and services to get back to regular patient schedules. Not only has the cyber attack caused damage to their network, but also their reputation as their patients are now unsure whether the HSE can keep patients health care needs on schedule.

Cyberattackers are constantly searching for vulnerable businesses to launch their next attack. Could your business be a target, is your business prepared?

Follow Cyber Wise on Twitter @cyber-wise and visit our website to see what we could do to help protect your business online.

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