Fears a massive computer virus could spread to Ireland following ransomware attack

Ireland's health authorities remove all external access to IT network

Thousands of Irish hospitals thought to have been hit during the major cyber attack on the NHS were infected by a separate, older virus, it has emerged.

Cyber security experts said the spread of the worm dubbed WannaCry - "ransomware" that affected people over the weekend had been slowed, but there are fresh fears that a reworked version could cause further problems, while experts are still unclear about the extent of the damage caused in Friday's initial attack. Internal emails had also been blocked, but were restored yesterday morning, and Mr Corbridge said it was unlikely that any of these interruptions would have a significant impact on patient care.

A Microsoft security patch, released in March to close the vulnerability in Windows operating systems exploited by the ransomware virus, has been downloaded onto 28,000 HSE computers since Saturday.

The HSE will keep its computer network disconnected from outside communications until Wednesday, despite confirming that ransomware found in the system was not related to the current global attack.

However, the HSE said the ransomware virus, which is capable of spreading across a computer network, had been thwarted and it had not infected any device in the health system.

However, he said the PSNI "cannot rule out the possibility that local systems may be vulnerable".

The PSNI has warned workers across Northern Ireland that their systems may already be infeicted by a computer virus and to be on the alert as they return to work on Monday.

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The NHS in the United Kingdom was affected by the hack with 48 out of 248 NHS trusts affected by the hack, although this number has been reduced since the start of the attack.

It meant nobody inside the HSE could receive emails from outside or access the internet or external based platforms.

The HSE's external IT networks will also remain offline today as a precaution.

Richard Corbridge, HSE chief operations officer, yesterday confirmed the attempts to attack computer systems across the health service had been as "virulent" as in other countries.

"In many situations, Tusla relies on referrals from members of the public and organisations and individuals working with children to identify children at risk", it said.

Meanwhile, Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, expressed concerns about children who may be at risk of abuse as a result of the email shut-down.

"We ask anyone who has reported a child protection concern by email since Friday, or who has a concern about a child, to contact their local social work duty team immediately".

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