The Irish health service said on Friday it had shut down its computer systems after suffering a “significant ransomware attack” a week after America’s largest gas pipeline system was also targeted.
The Irish attack was blamed on international criminals and would target health records, but officials said patient safety was not at risk.
“We have taken the precaution of shutting down all of our IT systems in order to protect them from this attack and to allow us (to assess) the situation fully with our own security partners,” said the Health Service Executive (HSE).
“We apologize for the inconvenience to patients and the public and will give further information as it becomes available,” he added, stressing that Ireland’s coronavirus vaccination program does not has not been affected and “will proceed as expected”.
Another ransomware attack last Friday forced the shutdown of the largest fuel distribution system in the United States, leading to panic buying and long lines at many gas stations in the Southeast. Some ran out of gas.
Moscow has rejected US accusations that a Russia-based group called DarkSide was behind the cyberattack.
HSE chief executive Paul Reid said the attack in Ireland was “an international criminal operation” and the authority was working with the police, the military and its main IT security providers.
“We are at the very beginning of a full understanding of the threat,” he told Irish broadcaster RTE, adding that he was trying to “contain” the problem.
The Reuters news service quotes him as telling RTE: “This is a very sophisticated attack, not just the standard attack. It affects all of our national and local systems which would be involved in all of our basic services. The program fortunately, it is a separate system. “
Dublin’s Rotunda Maternity Hospital said “due to a serious computer problem” it was only admitting emergencies and women who were at least 36 weeks pregnant.
Hospital chief Fergal Malone said the attack targeted computers storing patient records. The life-saving equipment is working well, “there is no issue for patient safety” and the hospital has switched to paper-based backup records, he told RTE.
“But obviously the flow will be much slower,” he said, urging outpatients with routine appointments to stay away.
In 2017, the UK’s National Health Service was hit by a computer attack that led to hospitals shutting down wards and emergency rooms and not admitting patients.