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UK National Health Service Hit By Massive Cyberattacks


(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Britain’s National Health Service has been hit with a massive cyberattack on Friday which has prevented doctors from gaining access to patient files and caused emergency rooms to divert patients.

What Happened?

Hackers proved their ability to wreak havoc on vital public services Friday when they launched a cyber attack against the U.K.’s National Health Service.

Tom Donnelly, an N.H.S. Digital spokesman, said in a phone interview that 16 organizations including “hospitals and other kinds of clinician services” have been subjected to the cyberattack.

“It is still ongoing,” he said. “We were made aware of it this afternoon.”

The digital arm of the service said in a statement that the attack involved a “variant of ransomware known as Wanna Decryptor.” Ransomeware essentially holds a computer hostage with the threat of destroying data or continually blocking access unless the victim pays a ransom.

Images began circulating on social media showing computer screens with messages instructing users to pay a $300 ransom in Bitcoin before they would relinquish control of the computers.

N.H.S. Digital added, “At this stage we do not have any evidence that patient data has been accessed.”

It is being reported that the N.H.S. was not actually the target of the attack. There were reports on Friday of cyberattacks against companies in Spain and Portugal, but those accounts could not be immediately confirmed.

The National Cyber Security Center, an arm of the GCHQ, the British electronic surveillance agency, said it was investigating the incident. “We are aware of a cyber incident, and we are working with N.H.S. Digital and the National Crime Agency to investigate,” it said in a statement.

As of 3:30 P.M. local time in Britain, 16 organizations within N.H.S. England had reported issues, according to the statement. As of now, it does not appear as if the N.H.S. systems in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland have been impacted.

The BBC reported that hospitals in the cities of London and Nottingham, the town of Blackburn and the counties of Cumbria and Hertfordshire had been affected.

The National Health Service said it was “working closely with the National Cyber Security Centre, the Department of Health and N.H.S. England to support affected organisations and to recommend appropriate mitigations.”

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