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'Ransomware' cyberattack cripples hospitals across England

13 May 2017

The spokesperson said the attack was not specifically targeted at the NHS, but affects organizations across a range of sectors, but didn't specify which.

According to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, a malware variant is widespread throughout the company's systems and the IT staff has urged employees to shut down their computers and network connections in order to limit the reach of the attack.

Sixteen NHS organisations were hit in the United Kingdom on Friday, while a large number of Spanish companies were also attacked using ransomware.

The IT systems of 23 NHS organisations in England and Scotland, including many trusts and hospitals, have been affected by the ransomware attack.

Spain's Telefonica was among the companies hit. The attack appeared to exploit a vulnerability purportedly identified for use by the U.S. National Security Agency and later leaked to the internet. "We will continue to work with affected organisations to confirm this", said an official statement on the attack.

A spokeswoman for West Suffolk Hospital said this evening: "We're now unaffected but we have shut down our incoming email".

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the attack was a "real worry for patients". Lidov said that the attack involved demands of payment of $300 worth to free up the system. Some chemotherapy patients were even sent home because their records could not be accessed.

Pictures posted on social media showed screens of NHS computers with images demanding payment of 300 United States dollars worth of the online currency Bitcoin, threatening to delete files within seven days.

"This incident highlights the risk to data security within the modern health service and reinforces the need for cyber security to be at the heart of government planning", Labour's health spokesman Jonathan Ashworth said.

A statement by NHS England, published earlier, said the organisation does not have "any evidence that patient data has been accessed".

A spokesman for Barts Health NHS Trust in London said it was experiencing "major IT disruption" and delays at all four of its hospitals.

In the USA, the Computer Emergency Readiness Team, or CERT, says it has "received multiple reports of ransomware infections in several countries around the world", without identifying those countries.

Ransomware attacks have been steadily increasing in recent years, and hospitals and other medical facilities are one of their largest and most devastating targets.

Hospitals reported phone systems, X-ray services and patient administration systems had been affected while one doctor in eastern England reported all cancer treatments had been suspended in his area.