LONDON: Computer systems in hospitals and doctors’ offices across Britain suffered large-scale failures Friday in a cyberattack likely carried out by ransom-seeking hackers that Prime Minister Theresa May said was part of an international assault on technology networks.
“This is not targeted at the NHS,” May told reporters, referring to Britain’s National Health Service. “It’s an international attack, and a number of countries and organizations have been affected.”
It was not immediately clear how many other countries were affected. But authorities in Spain said Spanish companies were among those targeted. Officials made no public comment on the possible source of the hack, which touched off havoc and confusion across the state-run health system. Operations were canceled, emergency room services were scaled down, and medical personnel went back to using handwritten notes.
Health officials offered no indication of when services might return to normal, or whether patient records could be permanently lost to the attack. The demand specifies that payments should be made via bitcoin, an online currency. The screen-shot shows a demand for $300 worth of bitcoin, along with a countdown clock that appears to have begun with three full days.
“Can I recover my files?” the message asks. “Sure. We guarantee that you can recover all your files safely and easily.”
Then it adds in slightly mangled syntax: “But you have not so enough time.” It warns that the ransom demand will double after three days and that after seven days, “you won’t be able to recover your files forever.”
A statement from NHS Digital – the computer services arm of the health service — said at least 16 hospitals or doctor’s offices were directly affected by the attack. Officials later acknowledged the number was rising, though they did not give a precise figure.