UK’s National Health Service Hit in Global Ransomware Wave

12 May 2017

Multiple outlets are reporting a wave of ransomware attacks affecting the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) as well as other firms throughout Europe.

The attack is said to have impaired the hospital and health service network’s ability to communicate, while patient records and other resources were unavailable as well. Ransomware is a kind of malicious software that locks up a computer, demanding a ransom – typically to be paid in bitcoin – in order to unlock the files.

Reports indicate that as many as 40 offices connected to NHS were impacted, though according to The Guardian, the UK hasn’t yet moved to confirm this figure. Prime Minister Theresa May issued a statement on the attack, declaring that no patient data is believed to have been compromised.

Outlets are reporting that more than a dozen countries – and as many as 74, according to one security firm – have been affected by the hacking tool. Cybersecurity firm Kapersky Labs has said that the majority of the attacks were directed toward Russia, and that available figures may not fully represent the scale of the impact.

Some of the companies impacted include shipping giant FedEx and Spanish telecommunications giant Telefónica.

According to The New York Times, the attack is believed to have been powered by a hacking tool originally developed by the US National Security Agency and published last month by a group known as the Shadow Brokers.

It remains to be clear whether the companies affected by the attacks will pay the requested ransoms – as much as $300 in bitcoin per machine, as reports indicate. Yet bitcoin addresses highlighted in the ransomware’s code by Matthieu Suiche, founder of cybersecurity firm Comae Technologies, indicate that at least some people are paying the demanded ransoms.

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