Concerns about patient details being shared online | #government | #hacking | #cyberattack

The leader of the Labour Party has raised concerns in the Dáil after a local GP contacted him to say that a patient of his was contacted by a medical organisation outside the State regarding a procedure he needed.

It comes in the wake of last week’s cyber attack on the Irish health service which saw the Health Service Executive forced to shut down all of its IT systems.

The “significant” ransomware attack focused on accessing data stored on central servers.

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions, Alan Kelly said that the medical organisation had the patient’s medical history and knew exactly what he required medically.

Mr Kelly said that the family and GP of the patient have contacted gardaí.

He said that if this was happening on a larger scale, “we have a big problem”.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that people should contact gardaí if issues like this arise, adding that An Garda Síochána have a dedicated cyber team to deal with such issues.

Mr Martin said he could not provide a detailed brief on how Government was responding to the crisis, as it could compromise efforts to tackle the issue.

Earlier, Minister for Communications Eamon Ryan said it is “deeply regrettable” if medical and personal patient information and hospital correspondence stolen by hackers from the HSE’s system is being shared online.

Minister Ryan said he could not confirm a report in the Financial Times on the release of medical details, but said it “seems to me to be very credible” and the Government expected this as it is standard practice for these cyber criminals.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, he said the Government’s first thought is for the patients and staff working in the system.

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Mr Ryan said the use of these tactics “won’t distract us from restoring the core systems and getting patients well”, which is “the first and foremost priority” and the Government is not contemplating paying any ransom.

He said the cyber attack on the HSE system was well-thought through, with huge resources put into “planning, plotting and waiting” before carefully extracting data from the system.

The HSE system was already compromised and the attack initiated several days before efforts to hack the Department of Health system were thwarted, he said.

Minister Ryan said while sophisticated systems have been hacked and compromised across the world it is “highly unusual” for cyber criminals to attack an entire public health system.

However, he said it has happened in New Zealand too so it is “an evolving threat”.

Despite this, the minister said that the response cannot be to talk to hackers and immediately pay a ransom, but to protect and restore networks and put up all the necessary defences so it cannot happen again.

He said the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said that “the smallest, simplest thing” like an email or a link which was clicked on could have allowed the criminals begin to infect the system.

He said that once it was reported on Thursday night, within just three hours the NCSC had deployed all its resources and international experts to respond to the incident.

Mr Ryan said the NCSC did not forewarn the HSE because it would not have given any advantage at that stage.

The health system has a budget of €203m a year for IT, he said, and the Government was aware of the need for investment and beefing up of cyber security resources.

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