May 14, 2021 - World

Ireland's health care system targeted by ransomware attack

St. Vincent's University Hospital in Dublin in January 2021.

St. Vincent's University Hospital in Dublin in January 2021. Photo: Patrick Bolger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ireland's public health care service preemptively deactivated its IT services on Friday after it was targeted by a ransomware attack, according to the AP.

Why it matters: The attack on Ireland's Health Service Executive, and other recent high-profile cyber extortion attempts, demonstrates how vulnerable critical infrastructure is to criminal hacking groups.

What they're saying: “We’ve taken a precautionary measure to shut down a lot of our major systems to protect them,” Paul Reid, the head of the HSE, told broadcaster RTE.

  • “We are at the very early stages of fully understanding the threats, the impact and trying to contain it.”
  • "This is having a severe impact on our health and social care services today, but individual services and hospital groups are impacted in different ways," Ireland's Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said in a tweet.

The big picture: The attack and the resulting IT issues have forced hospitals to cancel numerous appointments, though it is unclear how widespread the disruption was.

  • Coronavirus testing and vaccination appointments were not disrupted by the ransomware attempt, though a maternity hospital in Dublin canceled most of its routine appointments because of IT issues, according to AP.

Go deeper: The ransomware pandemic

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