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Possible cyberattack downs provincial health-care systems

A cyberattack appears to have downed health-care services in Newfoundland and Labrador that has affected thousands of appointments and procedures, including those involving COVID-19 testing.

"We may have been victims of a possible cyberattack by a third party," said Health Minister John Haggie at a news conference Monday morning, adding the attack, now in its third day, hit "the brain of the data centre" that powers the province's health-care system.

According to CBC, the attack was 'ransomware', with the Premier of N.L. adding that "the nature and extent of it are still under investigation," he told reporters.

Haggie the attack has had a "significant impact" on the health-care system, primarily at Eastern Health, the largest of the province's four health authorities, where almost all procedures except emergency ones have been cancelled.

An exact number on how many procedures — ranging from surgeries to chemotherapy to X-rays — have been affected is not yet known, but it is estimated it to be in the thousands.

"It is a significant impact, there's no doubt about that, and the numbers would be quite large," Diamond said. Eastern Health delays affect patients across the province, he said, because people come to the St. John's area for specialist appointments.

Non-emergency procedures may not occur until Wednesday.

"They are hoping for days, but we just have to bear in mind that that's a hope, and continue to work on mitigation from the front-line point of view, to deal with the impacts on patient care," Haggie said.

"These types of attacks are very virulent," said Steve Waterhouse, a Montreal-based cyber security expert and former information systems security officer with the Department of National Defence.

"As we speak, they go across the world, and especially they attack health services systems, for the purpose of inducing those health services to pay rapidly to recover access to their systems so they can continue serving the population."

"It just takes a moment of not being present there, and you click, and the worst happens," he said.

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