NHS cyber attack leaves EU's law enforcers stunned after 'unprecedented' global reach

Ivan Schwartz
May 19, 2017

Problems with cyber security in NHS organisations were highlighted a year ago by Dame Fiona Caldicott, the national data guardian, who warned that issues were given insufficient priority and that health bodies persisted in using obsolete computer systems, The Times said.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said the concerning incident shows measures to prevent future attacks need to be a priority.

Microsoft blamed the US government for "stockpiling" software code that was used by unknown hackers to launch the attacks.

A malware called Wanna Decryptor was used in the attack, which encrypts files on a user's computer, blocking them from view. Russian Federation and Ukraine had a heavy concentration of infections, according to Dutch security company Avast Software BV.

Paying ransom will not ensure any fix, said Eiichi Moriya, a cybersecurity expert and professor at Meiji University.

The attack plunged dozens of hospitals and doctors surgeries in England and Wales into chaos, with operations cancelled, ambulances diverted and patients moved.

It is understood that many NHS organisations had failed to apply security updates released by Microsoft or were using Windows XP, an older version of the operating system.

"We are implementing remediation steps as quickly as possible".

As Windows 10 is safe from "Ransomware" attack, running Windows Update on systems will defend from it. The city of Osaka said its home page went blank, although problems had not been detected otherwise.

The number of ransomware-affected cases is still rising.

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"We haven't fully dodged this bullet at all until we're patched against the vulnerability itself", Kalember said.

May also said that cyber-attack did not target just the health service, but it is part of a wider global assault. This is expected to rise, as the malware threatens that the ransom will double if the victims fail to pay $300 in bitcoin within three days.

Meanwhile GP IT suppliers EMIS and TPP issued statements which said their systems had not been directly affected by the attack. FedEx said it was "experiencing interference", the Associated Press reported.

SECURITY OUTFIT Bitdefender has put together a list of best practise tips to help individuals organisations defend themselves against the WannaCry ransomware.

As a loose global network of cybersecurity experts fought the ransomware hackers, in China, state media said more than 29,000 institutions had been infected along with hundreds of thousands of devices.

Indonesia's government reported two hospitals in Jakarta were affected.

Ransomware is a particularly stubborn problem because victims are often tricked into allowing the malicious software to run on their computers, and the encryption happens too fast for security software to catch it. Something more focused with knowledge of NHS systems could have done something much worse.

The attack was apparently halted in the afternoon in the United Kingdom when a researcher took control of an Internet domain that acted as a kill switch for the worm's propagation, according to Ars Technica. Data must be regularly backed up and secured so that the backups are not connected to the computers and networks they are supporting.

Europol executive director Rob Wainwright said the situation could worsen on Monday when workers return to their offices after the weekend and log on.

Other reports by GizPress

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