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Patient info released to media outlets after Waikato DHB cyberattack

Yesterday, hackers who launched a cyberattack on Waikato District Health Board’s system released patient information to several media outlets, including the NZ Herald.

“We are aware that the media have received what appears to be personal and patient information from Waikato DHB information systems,” the hospital group said in an update.

The media agencies refused to divulge the information publicly and have turned it over to the police.

Since then, Waikato DHB has set up a 24/7 privacy helpline, which has taken 34 calls as of today.  

WHY IT MATTERS

In a separate statement, Privacy Commissioner John Edwards said he expects Waikato DHB to “notify and offer support to the individuals identified in that information without delay”.

“We would also expect that the DHB would be actively monitoring for potential host sites on the Dark Web or elsewhere,” he added.

The commissioner also reminded all DHBs to address any security flaw identified in the Health Ministry’s audit of health IT systems last year. “If we find that any DHB does not have adequate security, we may issue compliance notices under the Privacy Act 2020, and if necessary, follow up with prosecutions,” he warned.

The National Cyber Security Centre, Government Communications Security Bureau, the Privacy Commission and NZ Police are all currently involved in the cybersecurity case.

THE LARGER CONTEXT

On 18 May, Waikato DHB suffered a full outage of its information service system after getting hit by a cyberattack. The hack may have initially come via an email attachment, it said.

The hospital group has since enforced full manual processes across its network, while it continues to resolve its backlog of deferred treatments.

“Acute surgeries are progressing and planned elective surgeries have continued where they can be done safely. Many of our clinics are still open,” it said.

Waikato DHB has collaborated with Te Aho o Te Kahu or the Cancer Control Agency and the Radiation Oncology Working Group to ensure uninterrupted treatment for approximately 70 cancer patients. The hospital group provides the second-largest radiation oncology service in New Zealand.

In the Wednesday update, it said 18 of the most clinically prioritised patients were brought to either the Kathleen Kilgour Centre in Tauranga or the Bowen Icon Cancer Centre in Wellington. “The rest are in the process of being seen either this week or the following week,” it added.

ON THE RECORD

“Waikato DHB apologises to our patients for the inconvenience caused by this disruption and appreciate their cooperation and understanding. We acknowledge the additional distress and concern for patients and their whānau at this time,” the hospital group said.

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