Large-scale Cyber Attack on NHS Hospitals in UK
USA Hospitals Are Intact So Far
Today, May 12, 2017 the group of hackers nicknamed “The Shadow Brockers” crippled the hospitals across England with ransomware. The program known as .Wcry file virus, blocks the access to the date on the infected hard drive and asks for ransom of $300 (£230) in Bitcoin (the new virtual currency is harder to track). The alert window pops up every 20-30 seconds. There is no evidence yet that the patients’ data was crippled or messed with.
The virus spread like fire across London, Blackburn, Dumfries and Galloway, Cumbria, Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Hertfordshire. The Twitter user from Longton in Staffordshire says [https://twitter.com/fendifille] their surgeries are “running doors open” but with the alert windows popping up all the time they are “a bit slow”.
An NHS Digital statement went like this: “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.
“Our focus is on supporting organizations to manage the incident swiftly and decisively, but we will continue to communicate with NHS colleagues and will share more information as it becomes available.”
The news is being updated right now while I’m writing this article. The reports have just come in from Spain, Italy, China and Russia about the same attack. In Italy, the university lab computer was blocked, in Spain and in Russia the mobile providers fell. The hospitals aren’t the only targets, but the unfortunately, they are the most vulnerable ones.
Some British and now Wales and Scotland’s hospitals are afflicted as well, and have made the decision to re-route the ambulances to other health care facilities and warn their potential patients to withdraw from visiting their doctors if it’s not an emergency.
The USA is not unfamiliar with these kinds of threats. In March of 2016, the Washington D.C.-area hospital chain, MedStar was blackmailed with the ransom software that had attacked the California’s Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center a month before. The Californian hospital preferred to simply pay over $17,000 ransom just to have access to their patient’s files again. The malware blocked the access to patient data, e-mailing and messaging. So far, we’re lucky that malware hasn’t yet affected surgical robots, but crippling the patients’ data is bad enough as it is.
The Congress is still debating the new standards of digital security for health systems. So, right now the security issue is the system administrators’ problem. But, updating antivirus software is not a panacea. Expertized hackers use holes in operation systems and bypass the antiviruses. In most cases, the antivirus itself is infected and cannot guard the data properly. No wonder that hospital authorities think it’s more appropriate to simply acquiesce to the demands and pay the ransom.
Until recently, ransomware has been the home users’ problem. But, it’s clear now that every public utility and service is under threat. The authorities still aren’t positive that the attack was coordinated worldwide. More likely, it went out of control, but such things always do. Some will try to get rid of the malware, but others – and large business enterprises among them – may prefer to shell out money and you can be sure, the ransom will be huge.
We in iGotOffer do hope that the criminals will be caught and brought to justice. Such a crime should be punished in the most severe way as possible..
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