Hospitals in UK National Health Service knocked offline by massive ransomware attack

Author

13 May, 2017

Telecommunications giant Telefonica was among many targets in Spain, though it said the attack was limited to some computers on an internal network and had not affected clients or services.

A "ransomware" cyber attack affected computer systems in various countries including India, National Health Service (NHS) England hospitals, and Spanish firms on Friday. "This is not targeted at the NHS".

The broad based ransomware attack has appeared in at least eight Asian nations, a dozen countries in Europe, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates and Argentina and appears to be sweeping around the globe, researchers said. The message dropped by the cybercriminals behind Wana Decrypt0r 2.0 includes instructions on how to pay the ransom, an explanation of what happened and a countdown timer.

"This is one of the largest global ransomware attacks the cyber community has ever seen", said Rich Barger, director of threat research with Splunk, one of the firms that linked WannaCry to the NSA.

"We're aware that a number of NHS organisations have reported that they've suffered from a ransomware attack", May said.

Germany's Deutsche Bahn computers were also impacted, with the company reporting on Saturday morning that display panels in the stations were affected.

This means that it gets into your computer and looks for other computers to try and spread itself as far and wide as possible.

Spain's Ministry of Energy, Tourism and Digital Agenda confirms the intrusion, describing it as "punctual attacks".

Ransomware attacks are on the rise around the world.

It is feared computers in A&E wards, GP's surgeries and other vital services across the NHS were infected with a virus based on hacking tools developed by U.S. cyber warfare agents.

Security experts are still trying to get their arms around the problem. "First, there is no guarantee the criminals will release your data", he said, "and second, even if you do have your data released, there is no guarantee the criminals won't repeat the exercise". It has hit computer networks across the globe in more than 60 countries.

It has been reported that up to 90% of NHS hospitals are still using the Windows XP programme, with experts suggesting that the 2001 operating system has made the NHS vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

He added, "It is a awful lesson about why using supported software, and keeping that software updated, is so important".

"Our society increasingly relies on interconnected systems to deliver key services such as health", he said.

The National Cyber Security Centre is working on a major operation in response to the attack, which it said targeted "thousands of organisations and individuals". Two security firms - Kaspersky Lab and Avast - said they had identified the malware behind the attack in upward of 70 countries, although both said the attack has hit Russian Federation hardest.

It had to cancel routine appointments and ambulances were being diverted to neighboring hospitals, Barts said. Japan, Turkey, and the Philippines were also affected. Affected NHS trusts said that IT systems had been shut down in order to protect them.

Hospitals in areas across Britain found themselves without access to their computers or phone systems.

Iberdrola and Gas Natural, along with Vodafone's unit in Spain, asked staff to turn off computers or cut off internet access in case they had been compromised, representatives from the firms said. "They told us there was a problem".

Ms Rudd told Sky News: "Where the patient data has been properly backed up, which has been in most cases, work can continue as normal because the patient data can be downloaded and people can continue with their work". The cyberattack, he said, could cause a major backlog in referrals.

Griffiths, who was receiving chemotherapy at Bart's, said several cancer patients had to be sent home from Bart's because their records or bloodwork couldn't be accessed.


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