Russia Interior ministry hacked in worldwide crisis — NHS cyber attack

Lynne Hanson
May 13, 2017

Patrick Ward, a 47-year-old sales director, said his heart operation, scheduled for Friday, was canceled at St. Bartholomew's Hospital in London. According to security experts, it exploited a vulnerability that was discovered and developed by the US's National Security Agency.

Hacking tools believed to belong to the NSA that were leaked online last month appear to be the root cause of a major cyber attack unfurling throughout Europe and beyond, security researchers said, stoking fears that the spy agency's powerful cyber weapons had been stolen and repurposed by hackers with nefarious goals.

"Microsoft released a patch for the vulnerability in March, so those systems should have been patched", he said. In some cases, the ransomware encrypts certain files and holds them hostage.

He said many NHS hospitals in Britain use Windows XP software, introduced in 2001, and as government funding for the health service has been squeezed, "IT budgets are often one of the first ones to be reduced".

By then, it was already too late.

Security experts are still trying to get their arms around the problem.

The scope of the attacks was not immediately clear, but some analysts reported that dozens of countries had been affected, with the malware linked to attacks on hospitals in Britain as well as the Spanish telecom giant Telefonica and the USA delivery firm FedEx. Spain's Telefónica and Russia's MegaFon were among the targets.

Some 85% of Telefónica's computers have reportedly been affected.

Authorities in the countries said the attack was conducted using "ransomware" - malicious software that infects machines, locks them up by encrypting data and demands a ransom to restore access.

Ambulances stand outside an NHS hospital in London, Britain, 12 May 2017.

"This is not targeted at the NHS, it's an worldwide attack and a number of countries and organisations have been affected", May said. "We were made aware of it this afternoon". It has become an increasingly prevalent problem.

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King's Mill, near Mansfield, is one of the largest hospitals in the region outside of Nottingham. It was first widely reported having crippled the United Kingdom hospital system, but has since spread to numerous other systems throughout the world including FedEx in the U.S., the Russian Interior Ministry, and telecommunications firms in Spain and Russia.

According to The Guardian, British Prime Minister Theresa May said the attack on NHS was part of a larger attack that struck 11 other countries, including Spain, Germany, Russia and Japan.

Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Trust said it had not been affected by the attack, but had switched off its IT systems.

Services in London, the central city of Nottingham, and the counties of Hertfordshire and Cumbria were affected, according to the BBC.

Pyotr Lidov, a spokesman for Megafon, said Friday's attacks froze computers in company's offices across Russian Federation. They asked patients not to come to the hospitals unless it was an emergency.

The NHS says at least 16 of its organizations have been hit by the ransomware.

Later, Portugal reported a similar attack.

Tyler Wood, a former top cybersecurity official who now works for a major telecommunications firm, told ABC News the forensic work to identify the perpetrators may take some time, and it could be a private attacker or a state.

Spain, meanwhile, activated a special protocol to protect critical infrastructure in response to the "massive infection" of personal and corporate computers in ransomware attacks.

Telefonica announced the attack had been limited to its internal network and clients or services had not been affected. On Twitter, Chema Alonso, Telefónica's chief data officer, called initial news reports "exaggerated". He says "for so many organizations in the same day to be hit, this is unprecedented".

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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