Waikato DHB set to reveal more details about crippling cyber attack

“We don’t pay ransom” – that’s the message from the Waikato District Health’s Board chief executive Dr Kevin Snee as the organisation braces for ongoing issues before regaining control of its computer systems.

Snee said there was no clear timeframe before it was able to regain control of computer networks hit by a sophisticated cyber attack.

He said the DHB was managing to achieve 80 per cent of elective surgeries but asked people coming to services across the region to call ahead before turning up for appointments.

However, he said that those calling should expect longer than usual waiting times with phone lines clogged.

“It’s certainly more serious than I first understood. We now have a good understanding of it.”

“It’s difficult to be certain when we will have things back up and running.”

Snee was speaking at a Saturday afternoon press conference updating the public after days of uncertainty following the cyber attack which he had previously called the largest in New Zealand’s history.

The update comes four days after the DHB’s entire information technologies system – including phones and computers – were brought down in a cyber security attack.

Waikato, Thames, Tokoroa, Te Kūiti and Taumarunui hospitals were all caught up as a result.

Snee said yesterday experts working to fix the problem had let on that it was more complicated than first thought.

“We are dealing in uncharted territory here.”

He said patients were being transferred to outlying areas which were providing support to the DHB.

Snee said there all public agencies in New Zealand needed good systems to protect against such attacks.

“We need to learn the lessons from this.”

The DHB is working with its information services team and experts across government and private providers.

It’s understood fixing the services will take until at least next week.

Of 111 elective surgeries that were planned at Waikato Hospital on Thursday, a total of 88 were able to go on as scheduled, the DHB said.

Snee said the DHBs IT staff had been working around the clock, with pressures spread across the system. “I’m immensely proud of the way our people are working to respond to the multiple challenges.”

There was ongoing planning to “catch up” once it again had control of its systems, he said. The DHB would become a good case study for other organisations on how to deal with attacks of the sort with lessons to be learned.

Snee would not answer questions as to whether the DHB was part of the Cortex capabilities launched with fanfare by Prime Minister John Key and the Government Communications Security Bureau in 2014.

The Cortex system, according to the GCSB, was to counter “cyber threats to organisations of national significance”.

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