DDoS attack hits Latvia's national 'e-health' system

On January 16 the National Health Service IT system and the 'e-health' system used by doctors to write prescriptions and sick leaves came under cyber attack, the Health Ministry told LSM's Latvian-language service.

The Lattelecom IT company, which maintains the system, is cooperating with the authorities to bring it back online.

While the 'e-health' website is accessible, the National Health Service was down at the moment of publishing, but back up an running at 3.59 p.m. 

"On 13:14 an attack on the National Health Service system was carried out, including the e-health service. As a result we instantly removed outside access. Following the incident all the responsible structures and authorities have been put to work.

"An investigation has been started. It is clear it was a planned attack, a distributed attack, as experts call it. It was carried out from several countries, or rather computer systems in several countries. [Computers] from both EU and non-EU countries were involved, more than 20 in total," said Health Ministry State Secretary Aivars Lapiņš at a press conference on the afternoon of Janury 16. 

The attack thus seems to be a distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS), a common type of attack with the goal of bringing down an IT system by flooding it with requests.

"We can neither deny nor confirm if it was organized from Latvia," said Lapiņš. Additional details would be published as the investigation gains traction, he added, also saying that at times when the e-health system is down doctors are encouraged to write prescriptions manually.

Both the Health Ministry and the CERT.LV cyber defense institution confirmed that the attack hasn't lead to compromised data or anything other than a disruption of the system. 

Previously MP Aija Barča, chairwoman of the Saeima Social and Labor Affairs Committee claimed that the e-health system was “disrupted” by malicious hackers on January 11, she told Latvian Radio January 16.

Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis, the acting Health Minister while Anda Čakša is on maternity leave, appearing on Latvian Television on January 16 confirmed that there were suspicions of a disruption attempt but said no data were compromised. 

As reported, the electronic healthcare system ran up against hurdles after it 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.

GPs still say they are facing trouble using the system when it is busy on Fridays and Mondays. 

€15 million has been invested in creating the system.

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