Irish health sector hit by second ransomware attack in a year


Significant increase in attacks as defences are called into question

Ransomware attacks on Ireland’s healthcare sector have increased by a whopping 189% over the last year, with the most-recent incident interrupting services at Coombe Hospital in the run-up to Christmas.

The maternity and infant hospital in Dublin was targeted overnight on 15 December, with hospital bosses isolating and locking down IT services ‘on a precautionary basis’ while the HSE assessed the wider implications.

The attack came just days after a PWC report on an earlier cyber attack found that the health service had a ‘frail IT system’ and a ‘very-low level of cyber security maturity’.

And industry experts are warning that, with attacks on the increase, more needs to be done to protect systems.

Speaking to BBH, Hugh McGauran, country manager for Ireland at Check Point Software, said its research showed a significant surge in attacks since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. He added: “Coombe Hospital is the latest victim in the surge of ransomware attacks we’ve experienced this year.

“Unfortunately, healthcare organisations are big targets for hackers all over the world, and Ireland is no exception.

“The latest intelligence from our research team shows that healthcare is, in fact, the third most-targeted sector in Ireland.

”And the latest ransomware data shows a huge 189% rise in ransomware attacks in Ireland, compared to 2020 – clearly this trend is not going away.

“The ransomware attack on Coombe should be a stark reminder to all companies to review your defences against this threat, no one is safe.

“Organisations need to focus on prevention, rather than simply detection.”

The PWC review on the May cyber attack found a Russian gang had entered the system in March after sending a contaminated email to a member of staff at the HSE.

And it found that the authority was easy prey for such an attack.

The HSE said it now has 24/7 expert watch, but needs a huge investment to improve its protection, including the hiring of expertise.

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