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Hack off HSE working to restore IT systems amid claims hackers demand $20m for stolen data

While authorities say that it could be a week until all systems return to normal, there are new claims that the ransomware gang have stolen data and are demanding $20m in payment.


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The ransom demanded by hackers from the HSE could be as much as $20m, according to an Interpol-associated security site, citing alleged exchanges between the ransomware gang and Irish authorities.

700GB of “unencrypted” files, including patient and employee information, are also alleged to have been stolen.

The claims are made in the respected online security website Bleeping Computer, which cites access to a cybersecurity researcher.

A spokesperson for the HSE declined to comment on the ransom and data theft claims and said that the issue was being handled by the National Cyber Security Centre.

Yesterday, HSE boss Paul Reid confirmed that a ransom demand had been made.

But Mr Reid said that government policy is not to pay ransomware demands.

HSE chief information officer, Fran Thompson, told Independent.ie that paying ransomware would only open a “Pandora’s Box”.

The thieves responsible for the attack, known as Conti gang, are known for ‘double extortion’ ransomware threats, demanding payment for unlocking data and, separately, for not releasing the data publicly.

The gang has targeted public schools and hospitals in the US this year and reportedly secured a €2m payment from the UK retailer FatFace in March. It is estimated to be responsible for dozens of international ransomware attacks so far this year.

The criminal gang is suspected to operate from Russia or one of the former Soviet countries, now known as the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Ransomware attacks are now a regular occurrence for Irish organisations. Last month, both the National College of Ireland and Technological University Dublin’s Tallaghts campus were hit by ransomware attacks.

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That comes amid a 60 per cent rise in ransomware attacks last year, according to cybersecurity firm SonicWall. The jump came as the pandemic caused millions of people to access company systems from their home computers.

The average ransomware payout last year varied between €130,000 and €300,000 according to various security industry firms’ research.

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