Ransomware assault paralyses United Kingdom hospitals putting thousands at risk — NHS cyberattack

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.

An NHS IT employee told the Guardian a message appeared on the screens of infected computers demanding users pay $300 in bitcoin in able to regain access to the machines.

British Prime Minister Theresa May says a cyberattack that has crippled some United Kingdom hospitals is part of a wider global attack.

As similar widespread ransomware attacks were reported in Spain, Romania and elsewhere, experts warned that online extortion attempts by hackers are a growing menace. People are being advised to avoid going to emergency rooms for the time being.

NHS Digital, which oversees hospital cybersecurity, says the attack used the Wanna Decryptor variant of malware, which infects and locks computers while the attackers demand a ransom. El Mundo reported that the attackers sought a ransom in bitcoin.

Hospital trusts across England and Scotland have admitted they've been caught up in the attack, with appointments cancelled, phone lines down and ambulances divereted.

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Microsoft has already patched the vulnerability, but only for newer Windows systems.

Among the other organisations thought to be affected are universities, as well as institutions and businesses in other countries - it is thought that the attack is the same strain of malware behind a series of attacks on businesses in Spain, which includes Telefonica and Iberdrola. Andy Wool, Foursys's marketing director, said it wasn't a targeted attack on the NHS, but an exploit against their system's vulnerability.

NHS trust IT systems in London, Blackburn, Nottingham, Cumbria and Hertfordshire have also reportedly been affected. "All IT systems have been temporarily shut down", Derbyshire Community Health Services said on Twitter.

A CCG spokesman said: "The CCG remains operational despite the IT problems, our business continuity plans allow for some staff to work off site".

Britain's National Cyber Security Centre, part of the GCHQ spy agency, said it was aware of a cyber incident and was working with NHS Digital and the police to investigate.

A report issued Wednesday by the European Commission called for greater attention to cyberthreats as the world becomes "more vulnerable to cyberattacks, with security breaches causing significant damage". Attacks of this kind have spiked in the a year ago, jumping from 340,665 attacks in 2015 to 463,841 in 2016, according to Symantec.

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