Waikato DHB cyber attack ‘hackers’ make contact with health bosses

Waikato DHB’s IT centre is the target of a major cyber security attack. Video / Waikato DHB

Hackers claiming to be behind a cyber attack that led to surgeries being postponed at Waikato public hospitals this week have made contact with health officials.

Tuesday’s attack brought the Waikato District Health Board’s entire IT network down, with officials now hoping to get the system back up and running by the weekend.

Police were investigating the attack that had affected Waikato testing laboratories, cancer treatments and email, phone and other services.

The crippling attack was also just one among a slew of daily cyber assaults hitting New Zealand’s health and hospital network, the Ministry of Health warned.

The risk patient records had been lost or privacy breaches occurred was low, but investigators could not yet be certain of this, said Waikato District Health Board chief executive Kevin Snee.

As well as bringing in outside cyber security experts, the National Cyber Security Centre was also guiding his team in how to deal with those claiming to be the hackers, Snee said.

“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.

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

It came as high-profile cyber attacks had increasingly made headlines around the world, including the Irish attack last Friday and another that shut down an important United States’ fuel pipeline this week.

The Ministry of Health said it had encouraged DHBs and their staff to have plans ready to deal with cyber incidents and be vigilant using the internet careful.

“All DHBS face cyber attacks in various forms daily,” a Ministry of Health spokeswoman said.

“For security reasons, we will not be commenting on the response to the Waikato DHB incident in greater detail at this time.”

Waikato DHB’s Snee said the cyber breach occurred at 2.40am

One of the leads investigators were following was that it entered the health provider’s network through an email attachment.

“That is one working assumption, but we’re not…