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NHS cyber attack hits hospitals and surgeries nationwide

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NHS hospitals and GP surgeries across the country are experiencing severe IT problems following a large-scale cyber attack, with reports that files are being held for ransom.

NHS Trusts in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Derbyshire, Essex, Lancashire, Hertfordshire, Blackpool and other parts of the country are reporting that they have been affected by the attack. NHS England has confirmed that a number of hospitals have been hit by the cyber attack.

The attack appears to be a ransomware attack, whereby a virus installs itself on a system and holds information ‘hostage’ until a ransom is paid.

Doctors and other hospitals workers have taken to social media to share the random message that they have been receiving. They report that users are being demanded $300 in bitcoin to access their files.

“Maybe you are busy looking for a way to recover your files, but do not waste your time. Nobody can recover your files without our decryption service,” the message says.

“If you want to decrypt all your files, you need to pay. You only have 3 days to submit the payment. After that the price will be doubled. Also if you don’t pay in 7 days, you won’t be able to recover your files forever. We will have free events for users who are so poor that they couldn’t pay in 6 months.”

“Payment is accepted in Bitcoin only,” it says.

Staff have been advised to shut down their PCs and await further instructions.

Hospitals have been diverting emergency patients, with reports of operations and other procedures being cancelled due to the attack.

The East and North Hertfordshire Trust announced that they were “postponing all non-urgent activity for today [and] asking people not to come to A&E – please ring NHS111 for urgent medical advice or 999 if it is a life-threatening emergency.”

“The recent NHS hospital attack is an indicator for a new evolution of malware that will focus on critical systems such as airlines and hospitals where paying ransoms may be the only way to resume business operations in some case life or death,” said Paul Calatayud, CTO at Firemon.

There have been suggestions recently that hackers could target cyber attacks at national services, causing harm by shutting down power grids or crippling financial services. 

Social media users suggest that the attack may not just be affecting the NHS.

 

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