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Experts say it will take months for HSE to recover from recent cyber-attack

DUBLIN: Health experts say the cyber-attack on HSE Ireland’s healthcare system could have far-reaching repercussions. It is expected that fixing these issues will take months, not weeks.

Experts say patients who are awaiting treatment or other necessary services would suffer the brunt of the attack. A total of 883,000 people are currently on hospital waiting lists, with 21,000 patients waiting more than a year for critical treatment. Their situation, which has worsened since the pandemic, is sure to get worse with the recent cyber-attack.

Dr. Gabrielle Colleran from the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) points out that the pace of backup recovery work has also been slow following the attack. Dr. Colleran says staff shortages is also a major problem. “We just don’t have enough consultants, we field half a team every day, and we do amazingly well for the numbers we have,” she added.

Dr. Paolo Palmieri, a cyber-security lecturer at University College Cork, said “it will become evident when further attacks including attempted fraud and identity theft start occurring probably on a mass scale on the people whose data was leaked.”

“It could take days, or weeks. In the case of identity theft it may be a bank receiving a call from a person who pretends to be the victim of identity theft. It may take months for the real victim to find out, and then it might be too late as they could have loans in their name withdrawn by cyber criminals. This happens a lot unfortunately,” Dr. Palmieri said.

The HSE acknowledges that cybercriminals have damaged the entire health-care system. HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor said recovery work is progressing following the cyber-attack, but there is still a long way to go.

“People just don’t understand the scale of what we are dealing with – this isn’t just one service; this is our whole health infrastructure. It’s not just that our system has been damaged. It has kind of been destroyed so there is a lot of rebuilding of the whole system going on,” said Ms. O’Connor.

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