Cyber-security experts bracing themselves for new ransomware attacks

Nettie James
May 16, 2017

IT administrators and cyber security experts are on high alert this morning as people return to work three days after malicious software began causing extensive damage around the globe.

A HSE spokesperson outlined that IT staff have located more than half of the at-risk computers, and expect to find and address the remaining units by Wednesday.

The Health Service Executive blocked its network from receiving outside communications on Friday as a precaution, and it remains disconnected as it finishes patching vulnerable devices.

The Irish Independent understands Our Lady's Hospital in Crumlin and the Rotunda Maternity Hospital are believed to be among the facilities battered by hackers who tried to infect their Windows computer systems with the WannaCry ransomware. The HSE later found the breaches related to a separate computer virus, and internet access was suspended while the viruses were contained and dealt with.

However, the HSE said the ransomware virus, which is capable of spreading across a computer network, had been thwarted and it had not infected any device in the health system.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland's Cyber Crime Centre will continue to actively participate in the national co-ordinated response to this attack and we would encourage all local businesses and public services to take immediate steps to protect their systems and reduce their vulnerability.

This means that the organisation will not be accepting any external emails.

Det Ch Insp Douglas Grant said no incidents have been reported in Northern Ireland yet.

The HSE said another 1,300 health servers will be rebooted this evening.

All internet users are being warned to avoid clicking links or attachments on unknown emails. Mr McMahon also said the "security of patient information and patient services" needed to be protected throughout the IT lockdown across the service.

It follows Friday's cyber-attack which affected more than 200,000 victims in 150 countries.

There were three suspected cases in the HSE of the Wannacry malware by midday on Monday, but in each case it proved to be an older virus for which protection was available.

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