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National Health Laboratory Service confirms cyberattack

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The National Health Laboratory Service has confirmed that it experienced an information technology security breach that compromised its systems and infrastructure.

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THE NATIONAL Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) has confirmed that it experienced an information technology security breach that compromised its systems and infrastructure.

In a statement, the service said the incident occurred on Saturday morning, and it is working around the clock to rectify the problem.

“Preliminary investigation suggests that our Enterprise Resource Planning (Oracle) environment, Laboratory Information System (LIS) (TrakCare) database, and CDW are not affected. Therefore, no patient data has been lost or compromised. All patient data is safe,” said Mzi Gcukumana, NHLS communication, marketing and PR officer.

Gcukumana said the investigation indicated that a ransomware virus was used to target selected points in the NHLS IT systems, rendering them inaccessible and blocking communication from the LIS and other databases to and from users.

“As such, all our systems remain inaccessible both internally and externally, including to and from health-care facilities, until the integrity of the environment is secured and repaired.

“All users will be aware that the NHLS networked laboratory system is heavily reliant on these information technology systems that have been disrupted.”

The NHLS said it was further established that sections of its systems were deleted, including its back-up server, which will require rebuilding the affected parts.

“Unfortunately, this will take time, and investigations thus far have not advanced enough for us to give a time frame for the restoration of our systems and full service.

“All stakeholders and the public will be informed as soon as more information becomes available.”

Gcukumana added that the cyberattacks have continued.

“But we have been able to block these because of the additional layer of security that was built to prevent further damage.

“We have also had to shut down systems to enable us to repair the damage.”

The NHLS said currently all its laboratories were fully functional, receiving and processing clinical samples.

“Under normal circumstances, the laboratory reports are automatically generated and sent to clinicians or made available on Web View. This incident has disabled that functionality.

“However, all urgent results are communicated telephonically to requesting clinicians.”

In apologising for the inconvenience, the NHLS said senior management was working around the clock to address the incident.

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