Civil service regularly under cyber attack, Finance Minister Conor Murphy confirms

Public services in the north are regularly subjected to attempted cyber attacks such as that which targeted the Health Service Executive IT systems in the south last month.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy
Finance Minister Conor Murphy

Finance Minister Conor Murphy said cyber criminals often try to gain access to government departments in the north because they are seen as lucrative targets.

In the wake of the sophisticated ransomware attack on the HSE the minister was asked if any Departments in the north have experienced attempted cyber or ransomware attacks.

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He was further asked whether or not he has had any discussions with the Dublin or UK Governments to help prevent such attacks.

Mr. Murphy said: “Assessments provided by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) highlight the government sector as being an attractive target for malicious cyber actors.

“Many organisations including NICS Departments regularly experience attempted cyber attacks and we continue to enhance our defences and security operations.

“Northern Ireland Civil Service (NISC) Department of Finance has excellent collaborative arrangements in place with the NCSC, Cabinet Office, Irish officials, NCSC and Devolved Administrations, aimed at increasing cyber resilience and preventing successful cyber attacks.”

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In the south the HSE is still trying to restore IT systems at hospitals and health service providers around the country.

In a statement published this week, a fortnight after the breach, the HSE said: “Many health services are continuing to operate essential and urgent services, without access to critical IT systems or with limited access to these systems. While many of our priority systems are back online on local sites including radiology and diagnostic systems, maternity and infant care, patient administration systems, chemotherapy, radiation oncology and radiotherapy our work in these areas remains challenged and far slower and less integrated compared to normal.”