New Zealand Hospitals Under Prolonged IT Outage From Ransom Hack | #government | #hacking | #cyberattack

Systems are still down a week after a ransomware attack disrupted the IT network of five hospitals in the New Zealand district of Waikato, and concerns remain that private patient information may have been exposed.

Patients are being asked to arrive at appointments with paper documents and banks are urged to honor automatic payments to hospital staff who were either underpaid or not paid at all, a week after the Waikato District Health Board said it experienced a full outage of its information services.

By Tuesday, manual processes were implemented to support the backlog of patients while the public was reminded to “seek alternative avenues of treatment unless they are critically unwell.”

The head of the health board, Kevin Snee, told reporters that “there’s a real threat some people’s personal information may have been breached as a result of the cyberattack.”

Andrew Little, the health minister and the minister responsible for New Zealand’s intelligence agencies, said he could not give anxious patients any assurance that their personal data hadn’t been compromised.

“All the advice I’ve had so far is obviously, they’ve gotten into the system and they’ve encrypted it, there’s a chance they’ve taken data from the system and exfiltrated it,” Little told Radio New Zealand on Monday. He said the DHB was rebuilding its system and operations would be back online “hopefully by the end of this week.”

There’s been no official word on whether the attackers had demanded a ransom. Last week Snee told reporters that there would be no ransom payment and that the Board had backups for all its files that it would use to rebuild its system.

The incident in Waikato, a local government region in the upper North Island of New Zealand, bears striking similarities to the May 14 cyberattack on Ireland’s hospitals. Officials there were forced to shut down many of their computers after hackers gained access to the health service’s systems. There, too, hospitals had to cancel services and staff have had to rely on pen and paper rather than PCs.

The hackers who targeted the Irish health service call themselves the ContiLocker Team and use a strain of ransomware known as Conti to break into victims’ machines and extort payments. When Waikato hospitals first had to shut down, the head of New Zealand’s doctors’ association, Deborah Powell, said the attack appeared to be of the same type. Radio New Zealand reported Powell saying that “it was her understanding the cyberattack was a type of ransomware called ‘Conti.’”

Asked for clarification, the Resident Doctors Association said she was not immediately available and was unlikely to speak further on the matter.

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