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No mass dump of HSE data as criminals’ deadline is passed

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There was no confirmed mass leaking of Health Service Executive patient data on Monday, as a deadline set by the cybercriminals came and went.

The criminal gang had threatened to release or sell masses of sensitive data taken during the attack on Monday unless it received a ransom payment of €16.4 million.

There was no evidence of the data being dumped online on Monday, although it is understood the Garda have been dealing with several complaints from people believing their data was exposed in the attack and is being utilised by fraudsters.

However, as of now, there is nothing definitive to link these fraud attempts to the cyber attack. Officers believe criminals unconnected to the attack are attempting to take advantage of the confusion it has caused to implement their own scams.

Messages are circulating widely on social media that cybercriminals are already taking advantage of leaked data, although these reports are unconfirmed.

“Just a heads up everyone, the hackers have started their calling campaign, ringing folks pretending to be from the HSE. They have all details such, DOB, PPS and date of stay in Hospital. They ask for bank details to give a refund,” is a typical example of the messages in circulation.

Garda sources said that while this is a known tactic used by fraudsters, they have yet to connect such activity to the HSE attack.

A review of the main ransomware data-dump websites used by cybercriminals such as the Wizard Spider collective showed no evidence of HSE data being published on Monday evening.

There is also no evidence of HSE data for sale on the main darkweb marketplaces used by cybercriminals.

However, officials still believe publication is more than likely. “We’re thinking sooner rather than later,” said one security source.

“There’s always a chance something else could intervene to stop them in their tracks but we’re not holding our breath,” said another.

A spokesman for the National Cybersecurity Centre said it is working closely with the Garda and others in investigating the crime. “The Gardaí are also liaising with international policing and security partners. It would not be appropriate to comment on the specifics of what is an ongoing criminal investigation.”

He said people are advised to be cautious of “criminals seeking to take advantage of fears around the HSE attack by contacting them to attempt to obtain information or payments. Any such attempts should be reported to An Garda Síochána. ”

A Garda spokesman said it has not confirmed “with full certainty that any personal records or data reported to have been circulated are in fact genuine even though this is probable and would be a feature of these attacks”.

Sexual assault records

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that identifiable records relating to the country’s six sexual assault treatment units (SATUs) have not been compromised in the attack.

This is a result of the units relying primarily on “pen and paper”, something described as a “blessing in disguise” by victims’ advocates.

SATUs are typically the first place victims are brought when they make a complaint of rape or sexual assault. They are used to treat victims and gather physical evidence.

Obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Rotunda Hospital Dr Maeve Eogan said no identifiable data from the SATUs is stored in electronic form.

“We have a database to monitor key service activity and produce relevant reports, measure [key performance indicators] etc hosted on the HSE server- but this is de-identified data.

“I hope we get it back though as it is very useful for monitoring trends to ensure we continue to provide a responsive service,” she told The Irish Times.

Noeline Blackwell, head of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre said SATU systems are not up to date technically in terms of electronic storage, which has turned out to be a “blessing in disguise.”

Ms Blackwell said the news will be a great relief for victims.

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Shocking news, Irish people may be sanest in Europe

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Ireland is running low on loopers. If we don’t watch out, we could emerge from the pandemic with our reputation for wildness completely shredded. We are in danger of being exposed as the sanest people in Europe.

Vaccines go into the arm, but also into the brain. They are a kind of probe sent into the national consciousness. In Ireland’s case, the probe has discovered exciting evidence of intelligent life.

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Vienna school under fire for sex ed class using doll for children as young as six

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According to Austria’s Kronen Zeitung newspaper, a teacher used a doll to explain “how sex works” to the children, while also encouraging them to use their hands and fingers on the doll. 

She said she wanted to “enlighten” the children about aspects of sex education. The children in the class were between the ages of six and ten. 

The teacher also explained to the children that “condoms should be used if you don’t want to have babies”, the newspaper reports. 

One boy was told to remove the clothes of the doll but refused before being told that he had to do so. 

The boys parents removed him from the school, saying that he was “overwhelmed” after the class and had started touching his sister inappropriately. 

“We have never seen our son like this before, he was completely overwhelmed” the parents said anonymously, “we are taking him out of the school.”

“We can already see the consequences. 

“A few days after these disturbing lessons, a classmate came to us to play. Like many times before, the boy also played with our ten-year-old daughter. This time he suddenly wanted to pull her pants down.

Peter Stippl, President of the Association for Psychotherapy, said that while sex education was crucially important, it needed to be age appropriate in order to be effective. 

“(This type of sexual education) scares the children! They get a wrong approach to the topic and their natural limit of shame is violated,” he said. 

“Sex education must always be age-appropriate and development-appropriate. Many children are six, seven or eight years old – or even older – not interested in sexual intercourse.

“We should never explain sexuality in schools in isolation from love and relationships. It makes you feel insecure and afraid. It harms the development of children.”

The Austrian Ministry of Education will now set up a commission to determine who will be allowed to teach sex ed in schools. 

The city of Vienna is also investigating the specific incident. 



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Madrid’s Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado granted World Heritage status | Culture

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Madrid’s famous Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado boulevard have been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The decision, made on Sunday, brings the total number of World Heritage Sites in Spain to 49 – the third-highest in the world after Italy and China.

Up until Sunday, none of these sites were located in the Spanish capital. The Madrid region, however, was home to three: El Escorial Monastery in Alcalá de Henares, the historical center of Aranjuez and the Montejo beech forest in Montejo de la Sierra.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez celebrated the news on Twitter, saying it was a “deserved recognition of a space in the capital that enriches our historical, artistic and cultural legacy.”

Retiro Park is a green refuge of 118 hectares in the center of the city of Madrid. Paseo del Prado boulevard is another icon of the capital, featuring six museums, major fountains such as the Fuente de Cibeles as well as the famous Plaza de Cibeles square.

For the sites to be granted World Heritage status, Spain needed the support of two-thirds of the UNESCO committee – 15 votes from 21 countries. The proposal was backed by Brazil, Ethiopia, Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, Mali, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Oman and Saudi Arabia, among others.

Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.
Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.Víctor Sainz

Prior to the vote, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the organization that advises UNESCO, had argued against considering the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park as one site, and recommended that the latter be left out on the grounds that there were no “historic justifications” for the two to be paired.

This idea was strongly opposed by Spain’s ambassador to UNESCO, Andrés Perelló, who said: “What they are asking us to do is rip out a lung from Madrid. El Prado and El Retiro are a happy union, whose marriage is certified with a cartography more than three centuries old.” The origins of Paseo del Prado date back to 1565, while Retiro Park was first opened to the public during the Enlightenment.

Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado.
Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado. Víctor Sainz

The ICOMOS report also denounced the air pollution surrounding the site. To address these concerns, Madrid City Hall indicated it plans to reduce car traffic under its Madrid 360 initiative, which among other things is set to turn 10 kilometers of 48 streets into pedestrian areas, but is considered less ambitious than its predecessor Madrid Central.

The 44th session of the World Heritage Committee took place in the Chinese city of Fuzhou and was broadcast live at Madrid’s El Prado Museum. Perelló summed up the reasons to include Retiro Park and El Paseo de Prado in less than three minutes.

“When people say ‘from Madrid to heaven’ [the slogan of the Spanish capital] I ask myself why would you want to go to heaven when heaven is already in Madrid,” he told delegates at the event, which was scheduled to take place in 2020, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Every year, UNESCO evaluates 25 proposals for additions to the World Heritage List. In the case of the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park, the site was judged on whether it evidenced an exchange of considerable architectural influences, was a representative example of a form of construction or complex and if it was associated with traditions that are still alive today. The famous park and boulevard sought to be inscribed on the UNESCO list in 1992, but its candidacy did not reach the final stage of the process.

Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).
Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).Biblioteca Nacional de España

The effort to win recognition for the sites’ outstanding universal value began again in 2014 under former Madrid mayor Ana Botella, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), and was strengthed by her successor Manuela Carmena, of the leftist Ahora Madrid party, which was later renamed Más Madrid. An advisor from UNESCO visited the site in October 2019.

English version by Melissa Kitson.



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