National Health Service Cyberattack Hits English Hospitals, Hackers Demand Bitcoin

Randall Craig
May 13, 2017

"We are very aware that attacks on critical services such as the NHS have a massive impact on individuals and their families, and we are doing everything in our power to help them restore these vital services", said Ciaran Martin, the body's chief executive.

Ransomware attacks are on the rise around the world.

Hospitals in the United Kingdom were crippled by a "large-scale" cyber attack on Friday.

NHS Merseyside, which operates a number of hospitals in northwestern England, tweeted, "we are taking all precautionary measures possible to protect our local NHS systems and services".

"This appears to be the first incidence of the use of an NSA exploit in a broad and far reaching cybercriminal campaign", John Bambenek of Fidelis Cybersecurity said.

Across the world, dozens of countries were hit by the attack that locked up computer and held users' files for ransom.

"That did not progress rapidly enough, and here we are today", Bambenek said. You only have 3 days to submit the payment. "After that the price will be doubled", it reads.

The window includes a countdown clock that threatens the files will be lost permanently in seven days. The infected systems rendered files encrypted and inaccessible and a warning flashed across the screens.

Hospitals in London, northwest England and other parts of the country reported problems with their computer systems Friday. It was reportedly distributed by the Shadow Brokers, which claimed to have hacked an NSA-linked team of hackers last August.

At least one Russian agency was hit by the ransomware - a fact that emerged after earlier conflicting reports.

Russia's Interior Ministry says it has come under cyberattack.

"As of now the virus has been localized", ministry spokeswoman Irina Volk told TASS.

The emergencies ministry told Russian news agencies it had repelled the cyberattacks while Sberbank said its cyber security systems had prevented viruses from entering its systems.

Rich Barger, director of threat research at US -based security research company Splunk, said: "This is one of the largest global ransomware attacks the cyber community has ever seen". The agency did not identify those countries.

Authorities in Britain have been braced for cyber attacks in the run-up to the vote, as happened during last year's US election and on the eve of the French vote.

(Hospitals are a common target of ransomware attacks, perhaps because their dependence on patient records makes them likely to pay up quickly and easily).

Volk added that some 1,000 computers - less than one percent of their total number - had been affected, Interfax reported. You don't have to be there.

"NHS Digital is working closely with the National Cyber Security Centre, the Department of Health and NHS England to support affected organizations and ensure patient safety is protected", according to the statement issued by NHS Digital. It said the attack did not specifically target the NHS.

There are reports that your computer could be affected if your Windows computer is on a wifi network where another user has been infected.

NHS Digital, which oversees hospital cybersecurity, says the attack used the Wanna Decryptor variant of malware, which infects and locks computers while the attackers demand a ransom.

"At this stage we do not have any evidence that patient data has been accessed".

"Like many other companies, FedEx is experiencing interference with some of our Windows-based systems caused by malware", said a spokesperson in a statement.

In a statement, a Microsoft spokesman said on Friday its engineers had provided additional detection and protection services against the WannaCry malware and that it was working with customers to provide additional assistance.

Other reports by Ligue1talk

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