Friday 19 January 2018

Concerns for 'children at risk' as Tusla forced to shut down email system due to cyber attack threat

Three hospitals targeted in cyber attack as infections found in 20 computers

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Eilish O’Regan

Children who may be victims of abuse are at risk due to the ransomware cyber attack, it emerged today.

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, which provides protection to these children said it has had to shut down inward email system due to the threat of attack.

The group said it has taken a number of steps to protect their joint ICT systems with the HSE.

"All external emails have been blocked since Friday evening as a precautionary measure while security work is undertaken and staff currently have no access to emails," a statement from the Child and Family Agency read on Monday afternoon.

The Tusla network will be continue to be disconnected from outside communications for another 48 hours as a precaution, meaning that emails from outside Tusla will continue to be blocked.

"In many situations, Tusla relies on referrals from members of the public and organisations and individuals working with children to identify children at risk," the statement reads.

Anyone who has reported a child protection concern to Tusla by email since Friday evening have been advised that this may not have been received.

"We ask anyone who has reported a child protection concern by email since Friday, or who has a concern about a child, to contact their local social work duty team immediately. Contact details for all social work duty teams are available on the Tusla website," 

If you are concerned about an immediate risk to a child, you can also contact An Garda Síochána.

Earlier today, it was discovered that three hospitals have been targeted in a cyber attack.

The HSE found the infections in computers but said the ransomware was different to the form of viral attack currently at the centre of a world scare.

They were discovered during surveillance of HSE machines which are prey to the WannaCry computer infection which is sweeping the world.

HSE officers however said they were able to isolate around 20 affected machines quickly from the rest of the network.

This meant the spread of the computer infection was halted in time before it infected other machines.

The HSE said the disruption to patient care has so far been minimised.

The news comes after the HSE decided to keep its network isolated from external communications for a further 48 hours as a protection against cyber attack.

It means that it will not be accepting any external emails.

Minister for Communications Denis Naughten is bringing a memo for information to Cabinet tomorrow to update the Government on the situation.

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