Huge hack attack hits NHS hospitals

Apparent NSA tools behind massive hospital ransomware attacks around the world
Global extortion cyberattack hits dozens of nations

13 May, 2017

The National Cyber Security Center said it is "aware of a cyberincident".

The attack came as several companies in Spain were hit by ransomware attacks.

All told, several cybersecurity firms said they had identified the malicious software in upward of 60 countries, including the United States, though its effects in the US did not appear to be widespread, at least in the initial hours.

A report in Politico said the Spanish CERT had indicated a Microsoft security update from March would fix the flaw that was being exploited by the ransomware.

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

"This is not targeted at the NHS, it's an worldwide attack and a number of countries and organisations have been affected", May said, referring to the country's National Health Service.

A police spokesperson said they're not aware of any incidents in New Zealand related to the attacks but have informed Ministry of Health officials as a precaution.

But those attacks - blamed on Russian Federation, which has repeatedly denied them - followed an entirely different modus operandi involving penetrating the accounts of individuals and political organizations and then releasing hacked material online.

"It had a countdown clock ticking down, stating that all data would be deleted unless a payment was received within that timeframe", he said. "It's important to note that our visibility may be limited and incomplete and the range of targets and victims is likely much, much higher", the blog post says.

Still, only a small number of US -headquartered organizations were hit because the hackers appear to have begun the campaign by targeting organizations in Europe, said Vikram Thakur, research manager with security software maker Symantec.

WanaCrypt0r 2.0 is a malware created to lock files in Microsoft Windows-based environments and, according to Avast, is seeking the payment of at least $300 in Bitcoin to decrypt the files (with the price goes up the longer the victim waits to pay).

He said the goal of his BMJ article was to raise awareness of the NHS' vulnerability and encourage hospitals to take steps to prevent an attack.

Companies around the world, including at least one major USA company, were hit by a sophisticated cyberattack on Friday that continues to sweep across the globe.

A spokesman for Barts Health NHS Trust in London said it was experiencing "major IT disruption" and delays at all four of its hospitals.

Patrick Ward, a 47-year-old sales director, said his heart operation, scheduled for Friday, was canceled at St. Bartholomew's Hospital in London.

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. "It's stressful enough for someone going through recovery or treatment for cancer".

"The National Cyber Security Centre is working closely with NHS digital to ensure that they support the organisations concerned and that they protect patient safety".

This is screengrab taken from the website of the East and North Hertfordshire NHS trust as Britain's National Health Service is investigating "an issue with IT", May 12, 2017.

Incidents around the world appear to be linked may not be a coordinated attack on specific targets. In 2016, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in California said it had paid a $17,000 ransom to regain control of its computers from hackers.

Krishna Chinthapalli, a doctor at Britain's National Hospital for Neurology & Neurosurgery who wrote a paper on cybersecurity for the British Medical Journal, warned that British hospitals' old operating systems and store of confidential patient information made them an ideal target for blackmailers. "I did not expect an attack on this scale".

"It looks like hackers are demanding ransom payments, so it might just be a group of hackers with financial motives", he said.

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