The Irish health service, the HSE, shut down all of its IT systems on Friday following a ‘significant’ ransomware attack that disrupted COVID-19 testing and other patient services, the BBC reports. The country’s COVID-19 vaccination program does not appear to have been affected.
A government official tells RTE news channel that an international cybercrime group is responsible for the attack. “It’s not espionage. It was an international attack, but it’s just a gang of cybercriminals looking for money, ”said Minister of State for Public Procurement and E-Government Ossian Smyth.
Micheál Martin, the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of the country, said Ireland would pay no ransom.
According to Financial Times, the government received a ransom demand to be paid in bitcoin. The attack appeared to affect data stored on central healthcare system servers, reports RTE, but it does not appear that patient data was compromised.
The HSE tweeted yesterday that it had decommissioned its computer systems as a precautionary measure to protect them from the attack.
There is a significant ransomware attack on HSE computer systems. We have taken the precaution of shutting down all of our IT systems in order 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 had a severe impact on the country’s health and social care services on Friday, but emergency services continued to function normally, according to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly. He reaffirmed that Ireland’s COVID vaccinations were continuing as planned.
Today has been a difficult day for @HSELive . But in the midst of this challenge, the immunization program continues to function. The Aviva vaccination center has now exceeded 52,000 vaccinations since it opened – more than the stadium’s capacity! pic.twitter.com/QJ9lmvg14F
– Stephen Donnelly (@DonnellyStephen) May 14, 2021
The Irish attack comes less than a week after a similar incident at Colonial Pipeline, which took one of the largest fuel pipelines in the United States offline. The company reportedly paid the attackers a ransom of nearly $ 5 million in this case, to bring its systems back online.