Worldwide ransomware attack brings NHS services to a standstill

nhs ransomware attack

The NHS has suffered as a result of a “large-scale hack” across the globe that hit some 99 countries in total.

The malware message is demanding ransoms from hospitals! A message appearing on hospital screens says that doctors will need to cough up if they want to save their files. The big issue here is that this causes a wider problem for patients across the country as hospitals are forced to use their ‘back-up’ plans, and services are being seriously reduced.

Real people’s lives are in danger here.

Precautionary measures

Though all systems haven’t been hacked, the NHS closed down some hospitals and their systems as a precautionary measure so the malicious software couldn’t spread further. This meant that the affected systems were taken offline and some hospitals said they were unable to even accept incoming calls.

Some patients had to be turned away as some trusts confirmed that only emergency patients can be seen. East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust asked for patients to not attend A&E, but instead to call 111 or 999 in an emergency.

NHS Trusts affected

According to the Independent, hospitals in London, Nottingham, Blackburn, Hertfordshire and Cumbria are among the targeted hospitals. 47 NHS Trusts in England have reported problems since the hack first surfaced on Friday 15th May 2017.

Diversion of emergency services

NHS hospitals across England were forced to divert emergency patients. According to one Twitter user, Dominic Marley (@DominicMarley), there are:

“no x-rays/bloods/bleeps/phones/notes. This is unprecedented. It will be a miracle if no-one comes to harm.”

This may well be true if patients aren’t getting the treatment that’s necessary to save their life…

Another Twitter user, B (@brobertson2010), vented his frustration:

“Massive NHS hack cyber-attack today. Hospital in shut down. Thanks for delaying emergency patient care & endangering lives.”

It begs the question – what kind of cyber criminals would actually put people’s lives in danger by attacking a public health service? All acts of cyber crimes are bad in any event, but people have been put at real risk here. It’s astonishing!

How the ransomware affected patient care

One doctor said:

“We got a message saying your computers are now under their control and pay a certain amount of money. And now everything is gone.”

According to the message showing on the computers, they were telling hospitals that they can recover files on the condition that they send $300 (£232) of bitcoin to a specific address. The message says that the files have been encrypted. The cyber-hackers have only given hospitals 3 days to submit their payment. After the 3 days, they note that the price will be doubled.

They also threatened hospitals that if payment isn’t received within 7 days then they won’t be able to recover their files ever again. This could cause a huge problem for the NHS as doctors and nurses rely on medical files and notes on the system to provide efficient care. People are at serious risk here.

The Telegraph notes that services affected are thought to include picture archiving communication systems for x-ray images, and pathology test results. One source said:

“This will mean delays and a focus on the sickest patients. I’ve seen it once before and we relied on local trusts supporting each other.”

Lessons to be learned

This colossal attack comes just 4 months after Barts Health Trust, which includes The Royal London, St Bartholomew’s, Whipps Cross and Newham in East London was hit with a similar kind of hack. The NHS are currently using an almost archaic Windows XP system presumably because of how bad the funding situation is right now.

Clearly, the time for the government to step up and sort out the black holes in funding passed some time ago. Is this the wake-up call that will force real changes? If it has happened once, it can happen again if nothing is done…

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