Health Care

NHS cyber attack: What is Wanna Decryptor and how does it work?

It said the attacks were carried out with a version of WannaCry ransomware that encrypted files and prompted a demand for money transfers to free up the system.

Portugal Telecom was hit on Friday by a cyber attack but no services were impacted, a spokeswoman for the company said.

Pictures posted on social media showed screens of NHS computers with images demanding payment of $300 worth of the online currency Bitcoin, saying: "Ooops, your files have been encrypted!" People are being advised to avoid going to emergency rooms for the time being.

NHS Digital said that 16 NHS organisations had reported being affected by the attack, which it said was believed to be the malware variant Wanna Decryptor.

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Sirer said ransomware has become a lucrative business for criminal syndicates that can make millions of dollars a day from such attacks.

Whipps Cross Hospital, part of Barts Health Trust, has had to cancel routine appointments as a result, with hospital staff activating a "major incident plan".

The attack came as Spain's National Cryptologic Center announced a "massive ransomware attack" against Spanish companies.

Hospitals in East and North Hertfordshire, Barts Health in London, Essex Partnership university NHS trusts, the university hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS foundation trust, Southport and Ormskirk hospital NHS trust and Blackpool teaching hospital NHS foundation trust have all been affected, the Guardian reported. It said technical teams have been called to investigate the problems - but that computers in walk-in centres and hospitals are being shut down. "Immediately, the security protocol for this type of incidents has been activated with the intention that the affected computers operate normally as soon as possible".

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The attack is said to be a "national" problem although it is not yet clear how it has affected Peterborough yet.

On Friday afternoon, NHS hospitals across England and Scotland fell victim to a cyberattack that caused ambulances to be diverted, equipment to shut down, and clinical services to be disrupted.

Identifying the source of a cyberattack is a lengthy process usually requiring a forensic examination of both the code used in the attack and how it spread across the internet, meaning we don't yet know with certainty how the NHS attack spread.

The news is also likely to embolden cyber extortionists when selecting targets, Chris Camacho, chief strategy officer with cyber intelligence firm Flashpoint, said.

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