INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY | Staff Reporter, Hong Kong

Health department falls victim to cyberattack

Computers were encrypted by ransomware, leaving some data inaccessible.

Hong Kong’s health department has become the latest victim to cyberattack after three of the computers in the Infection Control Branch, Clinical Genetic Service and Drug Office were hit by a malicious ransomware, reports South China Morning Post.

Although computers can be turned on, users were left unable to access files that were suddenly encrypted.

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The move comes on the heels of an earlier large scale cyberattack at Singapore’s national government health database SingHealth where the personal information of more than 1.5 million individuals including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong were illegally accessed.

“Files stored on the computers were encrypted by ransomware, and an email address to contact for a decryption key was left behind, but no ransom was demanded,” a department spokeswoman told SCMP.

However, no data has been leaked and there are backup files containing the data. No ransom was also made.

Cyberattacks on a massive scale could easily wipe out around 10% of Hong Kong's GDP or nearly $250b annually within the next few years, according to an earlier study commissioned by Microsoft. 

Organisations with more than 500 employees may suffer an average loss of US$24.9m due to cyberthreats. The losses companies could rack up take into account financial writedowns like ransom money and stock price changes as well as indirect losses like reputational damage, Microsoft added.

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