Irish healthcare sees 60pc spike in cyberattacks, company claims

29 May 2023

Smarttech247 CEO Raluca Saceanu. Image: Smarttech247

Smarttech247 has reported a surge in attempted cyberattacks on Irish healthcare and has urged Government to address the risk.

Irish hospitals and healthcare providers have seen a spike in attempted cyberattacks over the past eight weeks, according to Smarttech247.

The Cork cybersecurity company claims its team has detected a 60pc spike in cyberattacks during this period. Smarttech247 said this trend poses a severe threat to both patient care and data security.

The report comes two years after Ireland’s Health Service Executive was hit with a massive cyberattack, which left hospitals and other HSE services without access to electronic health records, while stolen data was leaked to the dark web.

Smarttech247 CEO Raluca Saceanu said cybercriminals are taking advantage of the increasing reliance on technology within the healthcare sector and exploiting vulnerabilities to “gain unauthorised access, disrupt operations and compromise patient data”.

“The consequences of these attacks can be devastating, potentially jeopardising patient care, compromising privacy and undermining the trust placed in healthcare institutions,” Saceanu said.

Saceanu also warned about the rise of ‘phishing as a service’ kits being shared by criminals online, which she said are designed to exploit vulnerabilities in the healthcare sector.

Smarttech247 has urged hospitals to prioritise cybersecurity as part of their internal strategies, while Saceanu is appealing to the Government to address the risk.

“I strongly urge the government to allocate additional resources towards cybersecurity initiatives within the healthcare sector,” Saceanu said. “This includes funding for cybersecurity training programs, technological upgrades and establishing collaborative platforms that facilitate the exchange of threat intelligence and best practices.”

Healthcare targeted by criminals

Cybercriminals are known to target critical infrastructure in order to increase the pressure of their attacks and have their ransom demands met. Some critical sectors also contain sensitive or valuable data.

As a result, healthcare is a constant target for cyberattacks. Last year, a French hospital was forced to send patients to other institutions after being hit with a ransomware attack, as various systems were rendered inaccessible.

The previous month, the UK’s National Health Service suffered disruptions from a cyberattack, which targeted systems that facilitate patient referrals, ambulance bookings, out-of-hours appointments and emergency prescriptions.

In February, a report by consultancy firm Kroll claimed ransomware spiked globally last year across a number of industries, including manufacturing, healthcare and telecoms.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic