Cyber-attack against health system was contract job, say experts

Take note – story published 5 years ago

The distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on Latvia's 'e-health' system, which slowed it down and made IT specialists carry out a temporary shutdown of the service, was most likely a contract attack the likes of which can be freely bought on the black market. 

That's what Varis Teivāns, an expert at Latvia's cyber incident response team, CERT, told LTV on January 18.

Teivāns said that while the system was disrupted, it was not accessed and no data was leaked. However it may be very difficult to find out the people behind the attack.

"It's very difficult to find the true source of such attacks, as they use other vulnerable systems throughout the web," said Teivāns.

The LETA news agency came under a similar attack on the afternoon January 17 and was slowed down for several hours. While analysis is yet to be carried out, the perpetrators may have been the same.

"Some of the involved servers were used in both attacks. But it is too early to tell," said Teivāns.

He also shared some thoughts of the possible purpose of the attack.

"Almost all DDoS attacks are used to discredit the system. [The goal is] giving bad PR and trying to show that the maintenance organization or the project itself is not able to defend itself properly," said Teivāns. 

"This [kind of attack] is primitive and brutal. It's comparatively easy to carry out. In all likelihood it was a contract attack," said Teivāns. 

He did however reveal that there had been an oversight in safety audits for the 'e-health' system and that it should be solved soon. 

As reported, the 'e-health' system used by doctors use to write prescriptions and sick leaves was shut down for a few hours on January 16 after it came under attack. The server of the National Health Service also went down for several hours. 

The system ran up against hurdles after its use was made mandatory on January 1, 2018. Doctors were reportedly unable to fill out sick leaves and prescriptions on the first days of its operation.

€15 million has been invested in creating the system.

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