Lawyers 'licking their lips' at thought of suing State over HSE cyberattack


Michael Staines
Michael Staines

09.01 20 May 2021


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Legal firms are “licking their lips” at the thoughts of suing the State over the HSE cyber attack, according to the Health Minister.

On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Stephen Donnelly said it is ‘very distasteful’ that lawyers are eyeing up legal claims while the State is under attack from hackers.

He said it is too early to say how exposed the State is to legal claims should large amounts of personal medical data be leaked online.

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Lawyers 'licking their lips' at thought of suing State over HSE cyberattack

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“I think it has been a little distasteful,” he said. “I have seen some legal firms already advertising, potentially licking their lips, at the thoughts of being able to sue the State.

“We saw the same with the vaccine programme. We had online materials being published by law firms talking about future cases that patients would be able to take against the State.

“I find it very distasteful I have to say. We have been attacked as a nation. Our patients in the HSE have been attacked and we are doing everything we can to respond.”

It emerged yesterday that some medical information stolen during the attack has already been shared online.

The 27 files linked to 12 patients were offered on the Darkweb as ‘samples’ to prove the hackers had access to private patient information.

“On the face of it, as has been reported, data from the HSE does appear to have been displayed on the Darknet,” said Minister Donnelly.

“The details of that are not something that would be confirmed because it’s an ongoing Garda investigation.”

He said there is a “risk that patient data will be abused” and encourage anyone approached about their data appearing online to contact Gardaí.

"Distasteful"

Asked whether lawyers should be allowed to publish ads encouraging people to sure, Minister Donnelly said: “Presumably it is legal.”

“If there are cases to be taken, then people have a right to take those cases but certainly I find it - when we are in the middle of trying to get urgent healthcare services back up and running for sick patients - I certainly find it very distasteful that any law firm would be putting stuff up on their websites to that end.

“I find it equally distasteful mind you, that some of them have done the same on the vaccine programme as well but unfortunately, it does seem to be a facet of at least a small part of the country that we live in.”

Exposure

The Health Minister said it is “too early to say” how exposed the State may be to legal claims due to the attack.

He said Gardaí and the National Cybercrime Centre are doing all they can to protect people’s medical data.

“What they are trying to do is identify such material, verify and then take any and all measures necessary to limit the exposure of the personal data online,” he said.

“This will be very upsetting for people. It is possible that people will be targeted but right now, as I am sure people will understand, all efforts are aimed at getting services back up online for men, women and children who need them.”

A ransomware’ attack involves hackers gaining access to an entity’s data and threatening to publish it or encrypt it unless a 'ransom' is paid.

The Government has insisted it will not be paying any ransom.

On last week’s Tech TalkNewstalk technology correspondent Jess Kelly sat down with Ronan Murphy of SmartTech247 to find out all there is to know about the attacks – and whether you should ever pay those behind them.

You can listen back here:

Lawyers 'licking their lips' at thought of suing State over HSE cyberattack

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