Waikato DHB assault: cyber criminals in ‘sport cat and mouse’ with victims, IT chief says

Trying to stay one step ahead of cybercriminals is a game of cat and mouse, said an IT director who helped Waikato DHB after a crippling ransomware attack.

“This is probably the most significant attack we have had on an organization in New Zealand,” said Department of Health Deputy Director General for Data and Digital Shayne Hunter.

It should be a warning to all organizations – not just district health officials – to oversee cybersecurity protection, he said.

“These cyber criminals are criminals. They are very creative and will find all possible ways to overcome our defenses and we know … they are stepping up their activities. “

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“It’s a game of cat and mouse, to be honest.”

Hunter was in Waikato to help the DHB respond to a cyber attack on Tuesday, May 18, in which the health department operated without a phone or computer.

Christel Yardley / stuff

“This is probably the most significant attack we have had on an organization in New Zealand,” said Deputy Director General of the Department of Health, Data and Digital Shayne Hunter.

Since then, the hackers have shared personal information with several New Zealand media companies who have forwarded it to the police.

Waikato DHB is contacting patients who have been confirmed to have a data breach, said CEO Kevin Snee.

“That should be done today.”

The number of affected patients is small, said Snee, but refused to provide exact numbers in the media update on Friday.

The health department also worked with legal experts and the data protection officer to ensure obligations were met.

At the same time, advances are being made in getting systems up and running, including an important problem area, radiation therapy for cancer patients.

It is hoped that radiation therapy will be available again at Waikato Hospital by the middle of next week.  It had completely failed after the attack.

Mark Taylor / Stuff

It is hoped that radiation therapy will be available again at Waikato Hospital by the middle of next week. It had completely failed after the attack.

“We hope that our radiation therapy will be in operation by the middle of the week,” said Snee on Friday.

The service would not be at full capacity, so some patients would have to continue treatment outside of town, Snee said.

At the weekend, some systems are to be installed with which employees can communicate with one another, create documents and the like.

Christel Yardley / Stuff

“I cannot emphasize enough how well the staff are doing, but also how sensible and acceptable the patients were,” said Kevin Snee, managing director of Waikato DHB, Center, on Friday. He is pictured on the left with Deputy Director General of the Department of Health and digital Shayne Hunter, and on the right with Chris Lowry, the executive director of the hospital and community services of Waikato DHB.

Hackers are likely to post more personal information and anyone who sees it should report it to the Department of Health and Police, says Data Protection Officer John Edwards.

Monique Ford / things

Hackers are likely to reveal more personal information and anyone who sees it should report it to the Department of Health and the police, says data protection officer John Edwards.

Waikato DHB has a special line for anyone who has questions or concerns about data protection: 0800 561 234.