NHS under cyber attack diverted patients

On Friday evening NHS realized they have been hit with some cyber attack. British hospitals urged people with non-emergency conditions to stay away after a cyber attack affected large parts of the country’s National Health Service.

Sixteen NHS organizations were hit in the U.K. on Friday, while a large number of Spanish companies were also attacked using ransomware. It’s not yet clear if the attacks were coordinated.

“The NHS has experienced a major cyber attack, we are working with law enforcement and our advice will follow shortly!” Action Fraud, the U.K.’s central cyber-crime unit said on Twitter. The National Cyber Security Center said: “We are aware of the cyber incident and we are working with NHS Digital and the National Crime Agency to investigate.”

Hospitals in London, North West England, and Central England have all been affected, according to the BBC. Mid-Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, which runs hospitals and ambulances in an area east of London, said on Twitter that it had “an IT issue affecting some NHS computer systems,” adding “Please do not attend Accident And Emergency unless it’s an emergency!”

The impact on services is not due to the ransomware itself, but due to NHS Trusts shutting down systems to prevent it from spreading, said Brian Lord, a former deputy director of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the U.K.’s signals intelligence agency, who is now managing director of cyber security firm PGI Cyber. Lord, who described an attack of this type as “inevitable,” said the impact was exacerbated because most NHS Trusts had “a poor understanding of network configuration meaning everything has to shut down.”

A screen-shot of an apparent ransom message, sent to a hospital, showed a demand for $300 in bitcoin for files that had been encrypted to be decrypted.

Workers across the NHS have since been sent emails from the health service’s IT teams warning not to open or click on suspicious attachments or links.

Spain’s National Cryptologic Center, which is part of the country’s intelligence agency, said on its website that there had been a “massive ransomware attack” against a big number of Spanish organizations affecting Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating system. El Mundo reported that the attackers sought a ransom in bitcoin.

“We’re aware of reports and are looking into the situation,” said a Microsoft spokesperson.

Ransomware typically gets onto a computer when a person unsuspectingly downloads a file that looks like a normal attachment or web link. A hacker can then trigger the malware to freeze the computer, prompting a person to pay a ransom or lose all their files.

Hospitals have been a common target because the culprits know how critical digital records are for treating patients. There have been several incidents in the U.S., including one in Indiana where a hospital’s IT system was taken down and patients had to be diverted to other facilities, according to a local news report.

Ransomware attacks have also been soaring. The number of such attacks increased 50 percent in 2016, according to an April report from Verizon Communications Inc. These types of attacks account for 72 percent of all the malware incidents involving the healthcare industry in 2016, according to Verizon.

“The large-scale cyber-attack on our NHS today is a huge wake-up call,” said Jamie Graves, chief executive officer of cyber-security company ZoneFox.

Andrew Barratt, the managing principal of Coalfire, a company which provides cybersecurity risk assessments to the healthcare sector, said that many NHS hospitals used personal computers with outdated Windows-based operating systems, which have made them easy to attack. He said many of these systems were too old to patch and that many NHS Trusts did not spend enough time on technical best practices and audits, leaving them vulnerable to a variety of potential cyber attacks, including ransomware.

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17 Comments Add yours

  1. Sairish says:

    Please do not attend Accident And Emergency unless it’s an emergency!

    Like

  2. Jacob says:

    Hospitals in London, North West England, and Central England have all been affected, according to the BBC .

    Like

  3. Aliza Shabbir says:

    The government is insisting that the NHS had been repeatedly warned about the cyber-threat to its IT systems, with Defence Secretary Michael Fallon stating £50m was being spent on NHS systems to improve their security.

    Like

  4. Aafreen says:

    Windows operating system.

    Like

  5. Arooj Ahmed says:

    There may be lessons to learn from this but the most important thing now is to disrupt the attack, let’s come back to afterwards whether there are lessons to be learned.

    Like

  6. Arooj Ahmed says:

    Please avoid contacting your GP practice unless absolutely necessary. Should you wish to obtain non-urgent medical advice, please call 111.

    Like

  7. The message to patients is clear: the NHS is open for business. Staff are working hard to ensure that the small number of organisations still affected return to normal shortly.

    Like

  8. Responding to suggestions that the NHS had left itself open to an attack of this nature, Mr Hunt told the BBC it had “massively” upgraded its security before the incident.

    Like

  9. Amah says:

    The impact on services is not due to the ransomware itself, but due to NHS Trusts shutting down systems to prevent it from spreading,

    Like

  10. Linh says:

    Hey there! I understand this is sort of off-topic however I needed to ask. Does running a well-established website such as yours require a large amount of work? I’m brand new to writing a blog however I do write in my diary everyday. I’d like to start a blog so I can easily share my experience and views online. Please let me know if you have any suggestions or tips for new aspiring bloggers. Thankyou!

    Like

  11. Aaseman says:

    Workers across the NHS have since been sent emails from the health service’s IT teams warning not to open or click on suspicious attachments or links.

    Like

  12. Aceldama says:

    There may be lessons to learn from this but the most important thing now is to disrupt the attack, let’s come back to afterwards whether there are lessons to be learned.

    Like

  13. Farghab says:

    The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said teams were “working round the clock” in response to the attack, which resulted in operations being cancelled, ambulances being diverted and documents such as patient records made unavailable in England and Scotland.

    Like

  14. Ahad says:

    Computers at hospitals and GPs surgeries in the UK were among tens of thousands hit in almost 100 countries by malware that appeared to be using technology stolen from the National Security Agency in the US. It blocks access to any files on a PC until a ransom is paid

    Like

  15. Fadi says:

    This is not targeted at the NHS, it’s an international attack and a number of countries and organizations have been affected.

    Like

  16. Aishah says:

    Computers at hospitals and GPs surgeries in the UK were among tens of thousands hit in almost 100 countries by malware that appeared to be using technology stolen from the National Security Agency in the US. It blocks access to any files on a PC until a ransom is paid

    Like

  17. Abahat says:

    This is not targeted at the NHS, it’s an international attack and a number of countries and organizations have been affected.

    Like

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