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Cyber attack hit 200000 victims across 150 countries, says Europol chief

20 May, 2017, 11:56 | Author: Nadine Todd
  • Global cyber attack hits hospitals and companies, threat seen fading for now

Normal service is now resuming at Hawick Health Centre following last Friday's cyber attacks by hackers using ransomware.

In Asia, some hospitals, schools, universities and other institutions were affected, though the full extent of the damage is not yet known.

The malware problems that afflicted the three community sites were described as isolated incidents.

Hospitals, major companies and government offices were among those that were badly affected.

Besides NHS Borders, he health boards issued with ransomware demands are those serving Dumfries and Galloway, Fife, Forth Valley, Lanarkshire, Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Tayside, the Western Isles, the Highlands, Grampian, and Ayrshire and Arran.

The warning was echoed by Britain's National Cyber Security Centre: "As a new working week begins it is likely, in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, that further cases of ransomware may come to light, possibly at a significant scale".

Cyber security experts said the spread of the virus dubbed WannaCry - "ransomware", which locked up more than 200,000 computers in more than 150 countries - had slowed but that the respite might only be brief amid fears it could cause new havoc on Monday when employees return to work.

"The problem is the larger organizations are still running on old, no longer supported operating systems", said Lawrence Abrams, a New York-based blogger who runs BleepingComputer.com.

It comes amid concerns NHS networks were left vulnerable because they were still using outdated Windows XP software.

In total 47 NHS organisations reported being affected - and the disruption is continuing into the new working week. "We are implementing remediation steps as quickly as possible", a statement said.

"Paying the ransom does not guarantee the encrypted files will be released", the US Department of Homeland Security's computer emergency response team said.

"There have been reports of hospital doctors and GPs unable to access patients' medical records, appointment booking systems and, in some cases, having to resort to pen and paper. You're only safe if you patch ASAP", he wrote on Twitter. "We've seen that the slowdown of the infection rate over Friday night, after a temporary fix around it, has now been overcome by a second variation the criminals have released".

Ciaran Martin, chief executive of the National Cyber Security Centre, added: "The picture is emerging that this is affecting multiple countries and sectors and is not exclusively targeted at the NHS". Experts say this vulnerability has been understood among experts for months, yet too many organizations either failed to take it seriously or chose not to share what they'd found.

"It is important that organisations reduce the risks of these attacks happening to them".

The ICO spokesperson said the organisation does regular spot audits on organisations holding personal data, including NHS trusts, and potentially including some who may have been caught up in the cyber attacks.

"NHS Scotland systems are being recovered". Individuals and companies still have to decide if they want to pay the ransom or part with their data.

"Again, if you have an appointment you should still attend unless contacted and told not to".

"You never want to pay a criminal as there is no honour amongst thieves but ultimately its going to be a business decision if they think they can not operate without these files", he said.

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