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Health related patient data emerges on the dark web

There is a lot in the news about cyberattacks and the risks. Ireland has a case in point, with personal data appearing on the dark web.

Image: © AFP/File Fred TANNEAU
Image: © AFP/File Fred TANNEAU

Ireland’s health service was recently affected by a significant ransomware attack, which forced it to shut down its information technology systems. This not only represented a further extension of the cyberattacks on the health and education sector, the extracted data has now begun to appear on the dark web.

With the attack, the hackers used the Conti ransomware, and the group responsible was identified as a criminal gang known as Wizard Spider, who appear to be operating out of Russia.

Looking into the matter for Digital Journal is Steve Forbes, the government cyber security expert at Nominet. According to Forbes, society needs to get very concerned about the increasing trend of ransomware operators targeting national infrastructure.

For this digital wake-up call, Forbes says: “If ever there was a doubt that ransomware operators were escalating their attacks on critical national infrastructure (CNI), this past week has proved it twice over”

Drawing on a recent cyberattack example, Forbes finds: “With the impact of the Colonial Pipeline attack still reverberating around the US, Ireland’s health service has become the latest victim of ransomware operators. National healthcare services are already under strain from the pandemic, which will make this ransomware attack even more devastating.”

A common theme with these types of attacks relates to the great value of the personal data that can be collected. Here Forbes says: “That fact will not be lost on the hackers – the attacks on Colonial and the Irish health care system both demonstrate that criminal groups are choosing targets that will have the greatest impact on governments and the public, regardless of the collateral damage, in order to apply the most leverage.”

In terms of an appropriate response, Forbes maintains that governments and industry need to work more closely together.

In terms of a collaborative approach, Forbes recommends: “It is an increasingly alarming pattern of criminal behaviour and one that demonstrates the absolute necessity for governments and the cyber security community to collaborate to protect our most critical national infrastructure and disrupt global ransomware activity.”

In terms of the how, Forbes says: “This will require coordination between governments, the private sector and CNI organisations to create a proactive approach to ransomware that removes the option of paying the ransom, which only serves to encourage and fund criminal organisations.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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