New Zealand health service hackers send stolen data to press

A cyber attack depicted in binary code
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The hackers behind the Waikato District Health Board (DHB) attack last week have sent key data from the organisation's systems to media outlets while the organisation continues to try and repair its IT systems.

"We are aware that the media have received what appears to be personal and patient information from Waikato DHB information systems. Media outlets have confirmed they will not make this information public and have referred it to the police," the Waikato DHB said in a statement.

The organisation is working closely with the National Cyber Security Centre, Government Communications Security Bureau, The Privacy Commission and the NZ Police to "respond, remediate and recover from this incident".

Kevin Snee, the Waikato DHB chief executive, added that the situation would not be resolved quickly.

"Our staff are pulling together as a team and working collaboratively with our partners to restore services, but disruptions are to be expected as workarounds are put in place," he said.

Full manual processes have been implemented across the DHB and work continues to determine how best to support the backlog of patients whose care has been deferred. Patients are being asked to bring their appointment letter and any other information from their GP as the DHB still doesn't have access to its clinic booking information.


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Furthermore, the DHB is working with cancer care providers to ensure patients receive appropriate and uninterrupted treatment, and develop a process for recently referred patients and new referrals. As Australia and New Zealand have a long-standing arrangement to transfer patients for treatment, the DHB disclosed that sending patients to Australia will be a last resort.

"This is a criminal investigation and we have every confidence that it is being dealt with by NZ Police and cyber security experts. Care and safety of patients remains our highest priority, and we must concentrate on health services and supporting our staff to do their job," Snee said.

The cyber attack brought down the Waikato DHB's complete IT network last week which resulted in some appointments being cancelled. Staff were working to restore the infected systems and had the theory that the initial incursion was made via an email attachment.

The DHB confirmed it had received communication from the supposed hackers and was still determining the nature of the attack.

Zach Marzouk

Zach Marzouk is a former ITPro, CloudPro, and ChannelPro staff writer, covering topics like security, privacy, worker rights, and startups, primarily in the Asia Pacific and the US regions. Zach joined ITPro in 2017 where he was introduced to the world of B2B technology as a junior staff writer, before he returned to Argentina in 2018, working in communications and as a copywriter. In 2021, he made his way back to ITPro as a staff writer during the pandemic, before joining the world of freelance in 2022.