Post-ransomware restoration of Ireland’s health service could take months, cost $600M

Post-ransomware restoration of Ireland’s health service could take months, cost $600M

Ireland’s health service is still attempting to recover from a cyberattack six weeks ago, with some hospitals unable to access many IT services, or even the Internet.  

As reported by ZDNet, Health Service Executive leadership told a parliamentary committee that it will “likely take months” before the system is fully back online.  

“I assure members, and the public, that we are doing everything possible to restore the systems,” said HSE CEO Paul Reid this past week.  


The attack is believed to have been carried out by Conti, a Russia-based ransomware group that has also been behind more than a dozen attempts to target U.S. health systems.  

After the incident on May 14, Conti somewhat unexpectedly gave the Irish government a tool that could decrypt the network at no cost.  

Still, the group is demanding a ransom in exchange for keeping stolen information private, which the HSE says it will not pay.

And although decrypting the data is now possible, Reid said that “is only one element.”  

“The malware must also be eradicated,” he said, according to ZDNet.

“Decryption takes much longer than the original encryption, and eradication involves additional tasks to ensure that the perpetrators have no access route back into our systems.”  

Hospitals are still providing necessary services, such as covid-19 vaccinations, but 25% of HSE’s servers remain encrypted. That leads to delays and continued IT downtime.  

According to SC Magazine, Reid said he expected the costs to top $600 million, given ongoing recovery efforts and system replacements.

The HSE plans to put in place a security operation center to be better prepared for future attempts. But even the best prepared countries remain at risk, as a new report shows.   

An analysis from Atlas VPN of the Global Cybersecurity Index 2020 report from the International Telecommunication Union gave the United States a perfect score of 100 when it comes to commitment to cybersecurity.  

The score is based on legal, technical, organizational, capacity development and cooperation cybersecurity indicators.  

The United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia were close behind, both with 99.54 points, followed by Estonia.

All the same, it’s clear the U.S. remains vulnerable – as evidenced by the devastation wrought by recent attacks on pipelines, the food supply and major health systems.  


Amid warning signs from agencies, the Biden administration has signaled its support for bolstering domestic cybersecurity efforts. 

The president’s $6 trillion budget, released earlier this month, would allocate billions of dollars toward strengthening cyber infrastructure.  

Elected officials are getting in on the act too: Senators introduced a bipartisan bill a few weeks ago aimed at more fiercely fighting cybercrime.

“Over the last few months, we have seen the severity cybercrime attacks can have on our nation’s infrastructure, and it is time for Congress to ensure our cyber defense can withstand these attacks in the future,” said cosponsor Sen. Thom Tillis, R-S.C., in a statement.  


“There is no underestimating the damage this cyberattack has caused. There are financial costs certainly, but there will unfortunately be human costs as well,” said Ireland’s Reid this week.  

When it comes to protecting against cybercriminals, “the whole world needs to raise its game,” he said.  

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.

Twitter: @kjercich

Email: [email protected]

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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