26 May 2021

Waikato DHB cyber attack: Top government officials hold crisis meeting

3:10 pm on 26 May 2021

The response to the cyber attack on Waikato District Health Board has "stepped up", says Health Minister Andrew Little, with top government officials attending a crisis meeting in Wellington this afternoon.

Waikato District Health Board outage after cyber attack.

Waikato District Health Board outage after cyber attack. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

Yesterday, a group purporting to be the attackers sent out emails to media outlets with what appeared to be sensitive personal and patient information from the DHB. RNZ has referred the email to police.

The Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination will meet this afternoon in response to the cyber attack.

The committee responds to threats to New Zealand's security - it convened after a cyberattack on the NZX last year and after the Christchurch terror attack.

Little said the Ministry of Health is also increasing its resourcing of the dedicated response team.

Waikato District Health Board said police were also conducting a criminal investigation into the matter.

Today in a statement, the DHB acknowledged that they were aware of the media reports on data, and said the National Cyber Security Centre, Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), Privacy Commission and police were all responding to the incident.

Waikato DHB chief executive Kevin Snee said the situation was not going to be resolved quickly, and acknowledged concerns about the DHB's data.

"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."

People with privacy concerns can call the number set up by the DHB, 0800 561 234.

Meanwhile, continued disruptions were expected as staff managed with workarounds, Snee said.

"Our staff are pulling together as a team and working collaboratively with our partners to restore services."

The DHB apologised to patients for the disruption and asked for their co-operation and understanding.

Full manual processes have been implemented across the DHB.

Acute surgeries are progressing and planned elective surgeries have continued where they can be done safely.

Patients are being asked to bring their appointment letter and any other information that they have from their GP or referrer becuase clinic booking information was not available while the system was still down

Waikato DHB Radiation Oncology service is working with cancer care providers, Te Aho o Te Kahu, the Cancer Control Agency and the national advisory Radiation Oncology Working Group to ensure patients receive treatment.

"Our staff's resilience and dedication in responding to this challenge, working in a high-stress environment has been amazing," Snee said.

This is an extremely serious situation and I am proud of staff who are doing their utmost in maintaining business as usual in an environment that is clearly not usual."

"I also appreciate the support of our partners, which has been vital to ensure we can provide the people of the Waikato with confidence to access the health services they need."

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