UK hospitals turn away patients after cyberattack cripples computers worldwide

UK hospitals turn away patients after cyberattack cripples computers worldwide

How did the attack occur?

A cyber attack which hit Britain's National Health Service (NHS) was declared as a major incident Friday night, with British Prime Minister Theresa May saying it was an global attack.

Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at Helsinki-based cybersecurity company F-Secure, called it "the biggest ransomware outbreak in history".

The virus is then able to encrypt files and block user access to them, displaying a pop-up window on-screen telling users they have been blocked and demanding payment - often via a digital currency such as Bitcoin.

Hackers exploiting data stolen from the US government conducted extensive cyberattacks on Friday that hit dozens of countries around the world, severely disrupting Britain's public health system and wreaking havoc on tens of thousands of computers elsewhere, including Russia's ministry for internal security. Two security firms - Kaspersky Lab and Avast - said they had identified the malware behind the attack in upward of 70 countries, although both said the attack has hit Russian Federation hardest.

Chris Wysopal of the software security firm Veracode said criminal organisations were probably behind the attack, given how quickly the malware spread.

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Security chiefs and ministers have repeatedly highlighted the threat to Britain's critical infrastructure and economy from cyber attacks.

"But will simply have been that the ransomware has sought out those organisations that are running susceptible devices", Mr Woodward said.

Cybersecurity experts told ABC News that the unidentified attackers exploited a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows that was identified by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and leaked to the public by the hacker group The Shadow Brokers in April.

Microsoft on Friday said it was pushing out automatic Windows updates to defend clients from WannaCry. Routine appointments had been cancelled and ambulances were being diverted to neighbouring hospitals.

"At this stage we do not have any evidence that patient data has been accessed". Some chemotherapy patients were even sent home because their records could not be accessed.

Russia's interior and emergencies ministries, as well as the country's biggest bank, Sberbank, said they were targeted.

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"An infection of just one computer can spread to the rest of a corporate network", it said in an emergency bulletin.

"The HSE will continue to monitor closely the situation and stay in touch with both NHS England and NHS Scotland to gather intelligence and offer assistance if necessary".

"When people ask what keeps you up at night, it's this", said Chris Camacho, chief strategy officer at Flashpoint, a NY security firm tracking the attacks.

Ransomware attacks were on the rise in 2016, and Canada was fourth on the list of countries most commonly hit by ransomware and social media scams in 2015, according to security firm Symantec. Several British hospitals say they are having major comp.

He declined the name the practices involved and said the board was "comfortable and confident" with the steps taken but added "we don't know what we're dealing with".

Forcepoint Security Labs said that "a major malicious email campaign" consisting of almost five million emails per hour was spreading the new ransomware.

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Avast said the attacks began in Europe at 3 a.m. EDT and grew throughout the day, affecting the Spanish telecom giant Telefonica and other companies.