Saturday 22 July 2017

Government warns of disruption to IT services on Monday because of ransomware virus

Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

The Government has warned of possible disruption to IT services on Monday from the ‘Wannacry’ ransomware malware worm currently causing havoc around the world.

“IT departments across Government and the private sector have been working over the weekend to upgrade IT equipment and to apply patches to deal with the vulnerability that this malware exploits,” said a government spokesman.

“Most of these works will be completed over the weekend, but in some cases there will be minor disruption to IT services tomorrow as works are completed and systems are brought back online. The impact of this on Ireland has been limited thus far, but this may change as the situation evolves.”

Meanwhile, staff at the HSE have been advised not to log in to HSE systems for two hours after they have physically switched their computers on.

“As staff go back to work tomorrow, the HSE is advising all of its staff to turn on their computers but do not log on for a full two hours.,” said the government spokesman. “This will allow the anti-virus capability to become active while still allowing the Network will remain protected. Each health building will have an IT representative to provide assistance in the morning.”

The spokesman said that the National Cyber Security Centre in the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment is “monitoring the situation on an ongoing basis”.

The Wannacry worm has already caused widespread disruption to hospitals in the UK and to other organisations around the world. It is unlike other ransomware attacks in that it has the ability to propagate itself from PC to PC through networks. This means that it can spread very quickly. Typically, it is activated when an email is opened by the victim, setting the worm loose.

Ransomware attacks lock all the contents of a computer until a ransom is paid. If it is not paid, the files and contents are deleted.

“The major cyber attack that occurred globally in recent days is unprecedented in terms of scale and speed of onset,” said the government spokesman. “Whereas ransomware attacks via malicous e-mail attachment have become commonplace, this newly discovered malware type is both cryptor and worm. It possesses the ability replicate functional copies of itself to other networked hosts without the need for users to click on links or otherwise interact. As such, it can spread very rapidly from machine to machine.”

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