Ransomware Hits New Zealand's Waikato District Health Board

Ransomware Hits New Zealand’s Waikato District Health Board

New Zealand’s Waikato District Health Board (DHB) has reported an attack by ransomware that took down most IT services on Tuesday morning. Waikato DHB chief executive Kevin Snee told local news media Stuff that it could be days before systems are restored.

Waikato District Health Board (DHB) is the main public health service provider for the region. The attack impacted medical services at six of its affiliate hospitals.  They had to refuse most patients and only accept those needing urgent care. 

The attack shut down all IT services, only email was still available. The attack rendered patient notes inaccessible, so hospital staff had to resort to pen and paper. Surgeries had been postponed. 

Waikato DHB said in a statement:

“Our staff are working to restore the infected systems and on the remediation process. We are working with the relevant government departments to ensure a secure environment is successfully re-established.”

Reportedly, Waikato Hospital postponed 29 out of 102 inpatient surgeries today, in addition to six canceled yesterday. And at Thames Hospital, all elective surgeries were postponed, and at affiliate hospitals in rural areas, all outpatient activity was deferred.

The organization said they are currently working with other government departments to investigate the cause and added that the hackers probably infiltrated their network via email:

“[We] are working on the theory that the initial incursion was via an email attachment. A forensic investigation is ongoing.”

The head of Waikato DHB said they decided not to comply with the ransom demands, a decision that is greatly encouraged by the Western cybersecurity agencies.

Recently, several ransomware operations have pledged that they would not target sensitive sectors like healthcare during the current pandemic. It is too soon to judge whether ransomware groups will live up to the promise.

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