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Ransomware HSE chief Paul Reid is unsure if private records of Irish citizens compromised in hacker attack

We don’t have indications… in terms of the patient data that has been accessed. That’s a process that we’re still going through.”


HSE chief executive Paul Reid. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

HSE chief executive Paul Reid. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

HSE chief executive Paul Reid. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

HSE Chief Executive Paul Reid said it is not yet known if patient data and private records of millions of Irish citizens have been compromised by hackers in the ransomware attack that has crippled the health service’s IT systems.

Mr Reid said the HSE did not yet know if the backups had also been encrypted by the hackers and was working to identify what systems could be brought back online.

“We don’t have indications… in terms of the patient data that has been accessed. That’s a process that we’re still going through. We’re establishing what data may have been encrypted and compromised,” Mr Reid told Katie Hannon on RTÉ Radio.

“We can’t fully establish if there has been an impact on some of the data in those backup systems.

"We have the backup systems and we know that we can bring them up [online], but what we want to do is bring them back safely and protected,” Mr Reid said.

The data within the HSE’s infrastructure includes the private health records of millions of its patients. The group behind the Conti ransomware attacks often threaten to leak this sensitive data online if the ransom is not paid.

The Government and the HSE have vowed not to pay what is believed to be “a substantial” ransom demand, even in the face of the threat of private patient data being leaked online.

Mr Reid said that it is “standard” for these international crime groups to issue that threat if the ransom is not paid.

Mr Reid acknowledged that patient data could be compromised and said: “That’s why we’re treating it with the highest level of security of the State.

“The intelligence forces of the State are involved in this and that’s where the guidance and direction will be taken from.

“In some cases… organisations have paid the ransom and didn’t get their data back,” Mr Reid said.

The HSE Chief said the hackers left a notification on a server that the had encrypted “some data” and the HSE immediately notified the National Cyber Security Centre.

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The HSE’s IT system, which stores all patient records and data, may be out for all of next week, according to Chief Operations Officer Anne O’Connor.

She said the system will be down for “several days” and that’s if “it goes well”.

Ms O’Connor told RTÉ Radio: “the reality is our system at a wider level will be impacted, we believe, for this week”.

“We are some way off having systems back. It will be several days,” Ms O’Connor said.

Ms O’Connor confirmed that the HSE doesn't have many of its systems

reopened as of yet and said the process was “at the early stages of bringing back foundational technology back”.

She said that some “clean” data has been retrieved from backups but there are thousands of virtual servers that need to be inspected “one at a time”.

Patient treatment has been affected to varying degrees across the country with the Saolta Hospital Group in the west of the country cancelling “all outpatient appointments... they will notify you if you are to go in”.

She added: “In other parts of the country, they are telling patients to come in for appointments unless you hear your appointment is cancelled.

“Our priority is to ensure that we can still provide services to people; emergency services, community services and of course our vaccination programme and testing.

“It’s different for different parts of the country which makes it more complicated,” Ms O’Connor said.

The HSE is currently prioritising “emergent and high dependence” cases. The HSE currently doesn’t have access to results of scans or blood tests for many patients.

The Patient Management System is being prioritised by the HSE in an attempt to have that operational as soon as possible so that “at least then we have visibility of people’s records”.

The system that supports CT scans and other diagnostic tests are also down, Ms O’Connor confirmed, adding that all work being done with patients currently in hospitals is being recorded by hand.

“We’ve gone right back to years ago with people literally running around hospitals with pieces of paper containing results,” Ms O’Connor said.

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