New Zealand health service hit by cyber attack

A number of surgeries have been postponed and all outpatient activity at rural hospitals have been deferred

A cyber attack hit part of New Zealand’s health service this week, and now hackers who claim to be behind the attack have made contact with health officials.

The attack brought down the Waikato District Health Board’s (DHB) complete IT network on Tuesday which resulted in some appointments being cancelled.

At Waikato hospital, 73 of 103 surgeries went ahead, although surgeries at one hospital have been postponed and all outpatient activity at rural hospitals have been deferred, the Waikato DHB said in an update

Staff are currently trying to restore the infected systems and are working on the theory that the initial incursion was made via an email attachment.

The Waikato District Health Board chief executive Kevin Snee said investigators are still determining whether patient records had been lost or privacy breaches occurred, as reported by the New Zealand Herald.

Snee said the country’s National Cyber Security Centre is involved to guide the health organisation on how to respond to those claiming to be the hackers behind the attack.

"We've had a communication, but whether that is from the ... malicious actors or whether it is somebody else - we have to check the veracity of that," he said.

Snee added that he could not yet comment on the nature of the cyber attack, whether hackers had left hidden code inside the DHB’s network, or whether files remained locked or encrypted.

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Health officials also confirmed to the publication that the attack didn’t appear to be linked to the major ransomware assault on Ireland’s health network recently.

Last week, the Irish national health and social provider, the Health Service Executive (HSE), was forced to shut down its entire IT system following a ransomware attack. The shutdown was a precaution and led to outpatient medical appointments being postponed or cancelled. However, HSE chief executive Paul Reid said that thankfully the country’s vaccination programme hadn’t been affected by the cyber attack.

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