Michael Staines
Michael Staines

09.47 21 May 2021


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The HSE can’t “just unlock the system and turn it back on again” after the hackers behind last week’s cyber attack handed authorities a password to unlock stolen data.

The gang gave the decryption tool to authorities yesterday and the HSE is now assessing whether it is safe to use.

The Government has said it is an “encouraging development” and noted that every effort is being made to restore the HSE’s IT system as soon as possible.

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HSE 'can't just unlock system and turn it back on' with decryption key - Smyth

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On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, the Minister of State for eGovernment Ossian Smyth said authorities have to be very careful about using the key.

He said the fear up to now was that some of the stolen data would be lost forever.

“But now the National Security Analysis Centre has told us they have managed to get the key back,” he said.

“It is a positive development. It does mean that we are much less likely to lose any patient data but the focus is still on rebuilding those services. it is still painstaking and we have to be so careful.

“We can’t just unlock the system and turn it back on again because it is infected and it could reopen a back door for the attackers to go back in so it is not as simple as that.”

Ransom

He said the State "100% did not pay any ransom" or negotiate with the hackers to get the key back.

“We are happy to get it back but it is like as if your house is burgled and you get all your things back but they are in a skip,” he said.

“So, it still going to take some time to rebuild the system and I understand that there is still a threat that the data will be published and again we are being invited to engage in conversation with the attackers and we are not going to do that either. So, we are not changing that policy.

He rejected the idea that the hackers had offered the password as an act of goodwill, noting that it is “not an organisation that is altruistic.”

“I can say for absolute definite it is not the result of negotiation with the attackers and it is not the result of any money being paid,” he said.

“It would make absolutely no sense for us to pay money to them.”

Scams

Throughout the day yesterday, warnings were posted on WhatsApp and social media about people being targeted by fraudsters who had gained access to their personal medical files.

Deputy Smyth encouraged anybody contacted by anyone claiming to have their information to contact Gardaí.

“We have heard of scams, none of these things have been validated yet but if people are contacted and told they have their medical data and somebody tries to extort information out of them, I would ask them to contact the garda confidential line,” he said.

“There is a hotline set up it is 1800 666 111. So please ring that number if anybody tries to ring you and threaten you about your personal medical information.”

Ambulance chasing

He also backed the Health Minister over his claim that lawyers were “licking their lips” at the thought of suing the State over the attack.

“The State has been attacked and the health service has been attacked and the people have been attacked in this situation,” he said

“It is a time when I am seeing amazing coordination; I am seeing people just cooperating and offering help from all across the State and that is fantastic.

“That is really awful if somebody else is looking and thinking, ‘oh look there’s an ambulance I can chase, I might make some money for myself out of that.’

“I think that says a lot about someone’s character if that is their reaction to a disaster. That they can profit out of it personally.”

Earlier in the show solicitor Micheál O’Dowd said he was “astounded” to hear the Health Minister’s comments.

You can listen back to Deputy Smyth here:

HSE 'can't just unlock system and turn it back on' with decryption key - Smyth

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