More than a dozen National Health Services hospitals in England and many other major companies were hit with a crippling ransomware attack today, including FedEx and Spain’s largest telecom.
All attacks are said to be linked to a major global cyberattack. The attack appears to be carried out by hackers using a stolen tool created by the United States National Security Agency (NSA). The ransomware, WannaCry, is the culprit of the worldwide infection.
The prime minister of England, Theresa May, confirmed that the incidents at NHS hospitals were not isolated incidents; they are part of an international cyberattack that has now hit at least other countries. Kaspersky Labs reports that 45,000 attacks have been carried out as of now. Most attacks have been carried out in Russia but totals could be “much, much higher.”
In England, the NHS was a victim, forcing at least over 12 hospitals (unconfirmed to be as high as 40) to shut down their emergency rooms and putting patients at grave risk. The cyber-infection is said to have taken over patient records, appointment schedules, phone lines and emails; computers and medical equipment were rendered unusable and emergency rooms were forced to close. Each computer displayed a lock screen and demanded $300 (£233).
According to computer security expert Ross Anderson of Cambridge University, it appears to exploit a weakness in Microsoft software. This “critical” security patch was fixed earlier this year but it’s said that it may not have been installed across all NHS systems. Last December, it was discovered that 90% of NHS computers were still running on Windows XP, an operating system that Microsoft stopped supporting nearly two and a half years ago.
British law enforcement suspects this act to be of criminal nature, not any sort of attack brought on by a foreign power. While be treated as a very serious matter, there is no suspicion of national security implications.
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