A recent cyberattack on the digital systems of the Waikato District Health Board in New Zealand has brought new focus to the issue of privacy in the relationship between doctors and patients. The digitization of data about wellness helps ease many patients’ access to well informed care. But it also clearly has costs.
The Waikato district, with a population of close to half a million, is to be found on the west coast of the North Island of the country.
The hackers have caused sufficient chaos for the hospitals in this district that they have asked the public to look for alternative avenues to treatment for non-critical issues. They have also taken to manual process (paper and pens, egad!) to continue their operations.
More significant for the issue of privacy. The hackers have e-mailed to a radio station a lot of official-looking documents that contain patient and staff names, addresses, and phone numbers. The Radio Station referred the email to police and otherwise has not disclosed the details.
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It is not clear whether this is a ransomware attack and, if it is, what ransom has been demanded. As a matter of policy, the government of New Zealand does not pay ransom to hackers.