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Hack attack HSE supplied with encryption key by cyber criminals alleged to help unlock hacked data

Security officials are in the process of verifying the tool

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Justice Minister Heather Humphreys (PA)

Justice Minister Heather Humphreys (PA)

Justice Minister Heather Humphreys (PA)

The HSE has been supplied with an encryption key alleged to help unlock data disabled by the cyber attack.

Security officials are in the process of verifying the tool to ensure that it is from the HSE hackers and that it will not cause any further damage to the system.

It will be examined by IT experts and, if legitimate, is expected to assist the health service in restoring and retrieving data from the hack.

However, the cyber gang behind the attack still have access to any data it stole and are still expected to dump the information online if they are not paid.

The handing over of such an encryption device is in line with the modus operandi of such cyber crime groups.

While it may assist the HSE in restoring sensitive material, it is not being treated as a mark of good will.

“These guys don’t do good will, and it’s more so a threat to show the access and capabilities they have rather than helping their victim, in this case the HSE,” one Government source said.

Independent.ie also understands that no specific ransom demand has been made to date and that no deadline has been set.

International news agency Bloomberg reported that the cyber gang involved had set a deadline of next Monday, May 24, before they would start dumping large amounts of data online.

They also stated that a $20 million ransom demand had also been made for the stolen files not to be published.

Justice Minister Heather Humphreys confirmed earlier today that “no direct request” has been received anyone.

Speaking to RTE’s News at One, she re-affirmed the Government’s stance that they will not pay any ransom.

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“It is likely they will publish material and we want to be ready for that. If anyone makes contact with you contact your local Garda station,” Ms Humphreys said.

She has been regularly briefed on the criminal investigation by the Garda Commissioner and said they are liaising with international colleagues in the US and UK.

The cyber gang believed to be behind the attack, Wizard Spider, are under investigation by several police agencies including the FBI.

It comes as it was announced that a ‘crimeline’ is to be established by the Government for public reports of contacts from strangers with hacked HSE material.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan made the revelation about the hotline in the Dáil.

“We are going to establish a hotline, a confidential Crimeline type system, whereby people — if they are in any way approached by anyone claiming that they have medical or other relevant data — can report that,” he said.

He said the Government was also contacting “our social media companies” to ask for swift action “if anyone is propagating any of this information, which is most sensitive, typically on the dark web or other such sites.”

It was essential “that we do not further the propagation, and we do not share” If we do not do so, further harm and damage would be done,” he said.

Leaks or dumps of such material was “a real possibility,” Mr Ryan said. “It’s impossible to stop.”The Government Information Service will be providing detail on the phoneline later, he added, warning however about the proliferation of rumour.

“We have to be careful about some of the rumours around this,” he said, without giving details. “ It’s full of subterfuge and all sorts of unknown, but if anyone is approached this crimeline will give people secure, safe advice in terms of what they need to do.”

He added: “ That advice will give us information on the information that’s becoming published.”.

He as answering Labour Party leader Alan Kelly, who said people need to see a plan.

“What are people who are watching here today to do when they have questions, or those working for the HSE,” Mr Kelly had earlier asked. “We need an information line, we need information online.

“This has turned rapidly into a national security crisis for our country. I presume a VAPT, or Vulnerability Assessment Penetration Test is being organised by the NCSC (National Cybersecurity Centre) across all State bodies and State departments to ensure that they’re not hacked as well.”

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