HSE cyberattack: ‘Good progress’ as new version of decryption tool developed

Ministers met today to review progress made to respond to last week's attack
HSE cyberattack: ‘Good progress’ as new version of decryption tool developed

Sarah Mooney

“Good progress” has been made to restore essential health service systems following a cyberattack, the Government said in an update on Saturday.

Ministers met today to review progress made to respond to last week's attack on the HSE, which has crippled the health service and left many patients with cancelled appointments.

In a series of tweets on Saturday, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the HSE and IT experts had developed a new version of the decryption tool offered to Irish authorities by the group behind the attack.

"The HSE and IT experts have developed and tested a new version of the decryption tool, and a structured and controlled deployment is now underway across the core network and devices across the system," Mr Donnelly said.

The Minister said a platform that delivers digital radiology is now live again in Dublin's Beaumont hospital, with progress also made in other hospitals.

"Levels of disruption next week are expected to be similar to those this week. A new HSE Crisis Coordination Centre began operating this morning at 9am in City West," Mr Donnelly added.

The Minister has been meeting daily with Coalition leader Eamon Ryan, Justice Minister Heather Humphreys and Minister of State for eGovernment Ossian Smyth to jointly “monitor and steer” the Government's response to the attack.

In a statement on Saturday, the Government said the Ministers were updated today on the "very steady progress" made to restore HSE and hospital IT systems.

“The Ministers were updated on the good progress made with the restoration of HSE and hospital IT systems which is essential to the restoration of care for patients and to support the personnel in the front line who are delivering care,” it said.

“The Ministers expressed their particular appreciation for the exceptional efforts of frontline health care workers in the difficult circumstances caused by the cyberattack.

“The National Cyber Security Centre, the HSE and specialist contractors are continuing to implement a detailed and dedicated operational programme to repair and restore the HSE’s IT systems and network, and are making very steady progress in what is a difficult and complex task.”

The HSE is issuing regular updates on the availability of services here.

'Fraught with risk'

It comes as earlier on Saturday, HSE chief executive Paul Reid said the process for unlocking the HSE network following the cyberattack remains “fraught with risk”.

The fallout from the ransomware attack by an organised criminal gang will continue for some weeks to come, he warned.

Mr Reid said a decryption key would not be a silver bullet for the crisis facing the health service.

On Friday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the Government did not pay a ransom or use diplomatic channels to obtain the decryption key.

It was given to the Government by the organised crime group behind the cyberattack, believed to be a gang calling itself Wizard Spider, but their reasons for doing so remain unclear.

Meanwhile, gardaí are concerned a protracted wave of scam attacks could follow if data stolen in an attack on the HSE is published or sold on to other criminals.

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