Child and family agency Tusla has said its IT systems are not operating as a result of today's cyber attack on the Health Service Executive.

In a statement this morning, it advised the public and all professional staff it works with, that its systems are currently not operating.

"This includes email, internal systems, and the portal through which child protection referrals are made," the statement added.

The measure is for security reasons as the agency is hosted on the HSE network.

The agency said any person wishing to make a referral about a child can do so by contacting the local Tusla office in their area. Tusla said it will issue an update as soon as possible.

Separately, Chair of the Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services in Ireland (AIMS Ireland) said the ransomware attack is an acute and unprecedented event.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Krysia Lynch said now is the time to ask the HSE if it has patient records stored in a robust way and if it has proper cyber defences for this type of ransomware.

"If they are moving to electronic records for all maternity hospitals they need to have their assurances in place as its very difficult to have maternity services disrupted in this way."

She said the big issue is not so much that pregnant women might miss an appointment, but the big issue currently for them is to enable them to have their partner to be with them during labour which is still in question due to Covid-19 restrictions.

"This is obviously compounding that as they haven't been able to have their partners with them, attend scans and of course appointments will have to be rescheduled."

She said people within maternity care services have felt a "general sense of dissatisfaction" with what has been available to them in the last few weeks.

However, she also noted the importance that this is being done for people's safety.

Ronan Murphy, CEO of Smart Tech, has said ransomware is prevalent and is an issue that both government and industry are dealing with regularly to protect themselves from these attacks.

He said in 99% of ransomware cases the ransom is automated within the encryption.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, he said once the encryption takes place and the files are accessed it is visible.

"I have not seen a scenario before where it is not already built into the encryption," he said.

He said ransomware attacks are becoming more sophisticated.

He said while attacks were previously about extorsion over withholding the data, there is now a worrying evolution in attacks where data is taken out of a system and blackmail is initiated for the return of the data.

"It is becoming more high stakes," he said.

He said when attacker have data that is intellectual or confidential and they blackmail you, that is a different type of negotiation.

He said the dilemma is whether to pay and give criminals more opportunity to build their criminal enterprises or not pay and deal with the consequences of losing the data or having it leaked on the internet.

Contact details for Child and Family Agency Social Workers

Carlow: 052-6177302
Cavan: 049-4369801
West Cavan: 071-9155133
Clare: 061-588688
Cork: 021-4923493
Donegal: 074-9123672
Dublin South East: 01-9213400
Dublin South West: 045-839300
Galway: 091-546235
Kerry: 064-6636030
Kildare: 045-839300
Kilkenny: 052-6177302
Laois: 044-9353997
Leitrim: 071-9155133
Limerick: 061-588688
Longford: 044-9353997
Louth: 046-9098560
Mayo: 094-9049137
Meath: 046-9098560
Monaghan: 049-4369801
Offaly: 044-9353997
Roscommon: 091-546235
Sligo: 071-9155133
North Tipperary: 061-588688
South Tipperary: 052-6177302
Waterford: 053-9198201
Westmeath: 044-9353997
Wexford: 053-9198201
Wicklow: 01-9213400
West Wicklow: 045-839300