Massive ransomware attack hits 74 countries

Kristi Paul
May 13, 2017

Hospitals and doctors' surgeries in parts of England on Friday were forced to turn away patients and cancel appointments after they were infected with the "ransomware", which scrambled data on computers and demanded payments of $300 to $600 to restore access.

NHS Digital said it was working with the government's National Cyber Security Centre, the Department of Health and NHS England to help the organizations affected "to manage the incident swiftly and decisively".

"The investigation is at an early stage, but we believe the malware variant is Wanna Decryptor", the NHS says, referring to software that is being blamed for a number of ransom attacks in Europe Friday.

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 USA did not appear to be widespread, at least in the initial hours. It said the attack did not specifically target the NHS.

Friday evening, security firm Avast was reporting more than 75,000 WanaCrypt0r 2.0 (aka WCry) ransomware attacks in 99 countries.

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

Computers were infected with what is known as "ransomware" - software that freezes up a machine and flashes a message demanding payment to release the user's data.

A spokesman for King's Mill Hospital's Sherwood Forest Hospitals trust said staff had been told to shut down all computers to prevent or reduce the impact of any hack.

A spokesperson for the agency said experts are working to recover the system. Still, the news prompted security teams at large financial services firms and businesses around the world to review their plans for defending against ransomware attacks, according to executives with private cyber security firms.

The committee, the nation's top investigative agency, has rejected the claim.

The infections have disabled more than a dozen hospitals in the United Kingdom, Spain's largest telecom company and universities in Italy as well as some FedEx computers.

South of the border there were reports of hospitals having lost the use of phone lines and computers with some emergency patients being diverted.

"This is not targeted at the NHS, it's an worldwide attack and a number of countries and organisations have been affected", said Prime Minister Theresa May.

At least 16 organizations connected to the National Health Service in England and an unknown number in Scotland reported being affected.

Another NHS Trust in Derbyshire tweeted: "We are aware of a major IT secure system attack".

Across the USA federal government, about 90 percent of all spending on cyber programs is dedicated to offensive efforts, including penetrating the computer systems of adversaries, listening to communications and developing the means to disable or degrade infrastructure, senior intelligence officials told Reuters in March.

"Let's hope that the attack on the National Health Service in Britain is simply a matter of inconvenience, and that nobody is denied essential care", he said in an email to FierceHealthcare.

Meanwhile, Russian media also reported cyberattacks on the Interior Ministry.

Krishna Chinthapalli, a registrar at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London, warned that British hospitals' old operating systems and store of confidential patient information made them an ideal target for blackmailers.

"Otherwise, such an attack can be technically un-investigable", the statement said. "They said they started the system again".

The attacks did not disrupt the provision of services or networks operations of the victims, the Spanish government said in a statement.

Other reports by VideoGamingPros

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