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Waikato cyber attack prompts warnings for other organisations to take stock of digital safety

The Waikato DHB cyber attack is raising red flags for security experts about the readiness of New Zealand's digital defences.

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A security expert is warning Kiwi organisations to urgently up their game on their digital defences. Source: 1 NEWS

It comes as other public sector organisations have told 1 NEWS they too have recently dealt with breaches.

Hospitals and clinics in Waikato were forced back to pen and paper after a ransomware attack crashed Waikato District Health Board IT systems including computers and phones, affecting Waikato, Thames, Tokoroa, Te Kuiti and Taumarunui hospitals.

Following the attack security experts are now warning Kiwi organisations that hold private data to urgently up their game.

Andrew Little says he won't resign over Waikato DHB cyber attack, still 'weeks away' from being resolved

”The cyber attack at Waikato DHB reinforces the need for organisations and I mean all organisations to review and continue to review cyber security protections,” says Shayne Hunter, Deputy Director-General of Data and Digital at the Ministry of Health.

“We are, especially in New Zealand, very good at technology and we do have very good defences but it might be in the wrong place,” says Joerg Buss of cyber security firm, Darkscope.

1 NEWS approached government ministries holding private data and were told they couldn't discuss whether their defences had been successfully breached in the past year but some, including the Ministry of Social Development said following the Waikato DHB attack they're reinforcing cyber security policies and increasing staff awareness.

Councils are having to fight off increasing numbers of attacks.

Hamilton City Council told 1 NEWS it has isolated a small number of account breaches in the past year.

Nelson City Council also confirmed it has dealt with a cyber security incident, although it says no council data was compromised.

Invercargill's Council says attackers have tried unsuccessfully to exploit flaws in software it uses.

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Hundreds of patients have been transferred elsewhere for care. Source: 1 NEWS

Andrew Little is the minister in charge of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service and Government Communications Security Bureau and says organisations have an obligation to protect people’s privacy.

“Organisations with a large computer network are carrying personal information about people, they have statutory obligations under the Privacy Act are doing everything they can to protect the privacy of that information,” he says.

A simple email click disabled Waikato DHB, experts say people, not technology is the first line of defence.

“I would like to see the Government stepping up and doing something like we do in health and safety, or we do in 'wear your seat belts'- it is a very important sector - it is everywhere,” Buss says.