HSE treating NHS cyber-attacks as 'major incident'

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Eilish O'Regan and Kathy Armstrong

The HSE is protecting their network and IT systems by removing external access following the cyber attacks on the NHS.

NHS hospitals were plunged into chaos today when their computer systems were hit by a massive security breach.

After a ransomware attack on 16 health service organisations in England and Scotland, emergency ambulances were diverted, operations were cancelled and staff were forced to manually take notes.

Pictures posted on social media showed screens of NHS computers with images demanding payment of $300 worth of the online currency Bitcoin, threatening to delete files within seven days.

The NHS has been hit by a major cyber attack on its computer systems (PA)

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A HSE spokesperson said they called a special meeting this evening and are treating the cyber attack as a "major incident".

The spokesperson said: "In light of the cyber-attacks  today on the information technology systems in both NHS and NHS Scotland, the HSE's Leadership convened a special meeting this evening in order to consider the situation.

"On foot of that meeting it was decided that, as a protective measure, the HSE’s Office of the Chief Information Officer would remove all external access to the HSE's Network to protect the integrity of clinical IT systems throughout our Health System.

"A precautionary "major incident" has been raised and the HSE will treat this as a "major incident" during this time and until further information is known.

"The HSE will continue to monitor closely the situation and stay in touch with both NHS England and NHS Scotland to gather intelligence and offer assistance if necessary."

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said:

"At present, there are no reports of any incidences of this malware in Ireland. The NCSC is monitoring the situation carefully, and cooperating with the HSE, with industry and with the Garda Cyber Crime Bureau. The NCSC has also been in contact with similar bodies in other EU countries, including the UK, and will continue to act as conduit for technical information around this issue."