The Irish government will not respond to claims from hackers who attacked the national health service on Friday. The systems have not yet fully restarted.
NAfter the severe hacker attack on the data systems of the Irish health service HSE, IT specialists tried to determine the extent of the damage and to restart the systems safely. HSE director Paul Reid said at the weekend that it was not yet clear how much data the hackers had encrypted and blocked. Hospitals in the country had to cancel numerous appointments for treatment. According to the pharmacists’ association, an electronic prescription system is also affected. The hackers attacked both national and local HSE IT systems, so that they had to be shut down completely on Friday.
The hackers, who so far remained anonymous, demanded payment of a ransom in the form of Bitcoin. But Ireland will not give them any money, Prime Minister Micheál Martin decided. “We say very clearly that we do not pay a ransom or get involved in anything,” Martin said late on Friday evening in a press conference. The HSE also announced that the ransom demand will be refused – as it is the political line of the state and the secret services advised.
According to HSE boss Reid, the hackers are said to have used human-controlled “Conti” software. According to information from IT specialists, Conti programs were first used at the end of 2019. Hackers from Eastern Europe are said to have demanded an average of almost a quarter of a million dollars in ransom for each blackmail case. The Irish secret service, however, advises the state not to pay under any circumstances.
Demands for a zero ransom strategy
There are also voices in Great Britain advocating a zero ransom strategy. The founding director of the GCHQ’s cybersecurity center, Ciaran Martin, goes one step further. He advised that a legal ban on ransom payments could destroy the hackers’ business model. Martin, who headed the national cybersecurity center NCSC from 2013 to 2020 and now teaches as a professor at Oxford, warned that companies or institutions financed organized crime by paying ransom. This would further support the hacking system.
The ex-head of the secret service complains that so far not even a report to government agencies is required if an extorted company gives hackers money to get their data back. “Right now you can just make a payment so it goes away quietly. There are no legal obligations to report to anyone, the payments with crypto currencies cannot be tracked. “Martin called on the government to create laws against hacker groups in the same way as against terrorist groups such as the” Islamic State “.
According to the NCSC, the number of hacker attacks with so-called ransomware (extortion software) has tripled in the past year. In 2017, the Wannacry virus attack, which is said to have been controlled from North Korea, hit the data systems of the British health service NHS, among many others, causing almost £ 100 million in damage. According to the security company Blackfog, Great Britain is the second most hacked country in the world after the United States, which accounts for around a third of all attacks.
It is estimated that this year more digital ransom will be paid than ever before: $ 20 billion. However, the damage caused by hacker attacks is likely to be many times higher. In British media reports there is talk of up to £ 120 billion ($ 170 billion or € 140 billion).