Major cyber-attack leaves hospitals across England 'in shutdown'

East and North Herts Hospitals have said they're "experiencing significant problems with our telephone network" and that the issue is also impacting on IT systems.

It said the attack was not specifically targeted at the NHS and was affecting other organizations.

According to reports from users who say they work in the health service, hospitals in Newcastle, Preston, Blackpool, Liverpool and Lincolnshire are under attack.

But those attacks - blamed on Russian Federation, which has repeatedly denied them - followed an entirely different modus operandi involving penetrating the accounts of individuals and political organizations and then releasing hacked material online.

"A number of NHS organisations have reported to NHS Digital that they have been affected by a ransomware attack", the public health service said in a statement.

El Mundo also reported that Gas Natural SA had been affected by the attack. NHS Digital said it did "not have any evidence that patient data has been accessed". Earlier versions of the same ransomware made no effort to steal data, instead just making it unusable, suggesting the latest attack is simply for profit. Routine appointments had been canceled and ambulances were being diverted to neighboring hospitals.

The ransomware uses an vulnerability on Microsoft's older systems.

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It said 16 NHS organizations had reported being hit.

In response to the attack Jonathan Martin, EMEA Operations Director at Anomali said: "This was an vulnerability waiting to happen".

Britain's National Cyber Security Centre, part of the GCHQ spy agency, said it was aware of a cyber incident and was working with NHS Digital and the police to investigate.

A number of hospitals in London, Blackburn, Nottingham, Cumbria and Hertfordshire have been affected, resulting in many doctors resorting to use of pen and paper as phone and IT systems were shut down. An NHS source had previous said that Barnsley and Sheffield's systems were previous unaffected, but are now down.

In the United Kingdom, hospitals in London, northwest England and other parts of the country reported problems and asked patients not to come to the hospitals unless it was an emergency.

While multiple healthcare facilities have been hit, the country's health service says other types of groups have also fallen victim. The majority of the new malware was targeting Russia, Ukraine and Taiwan, Avast Threat Lab team lead Jakub Kroustek said. The statement said the attackers were demanding a ransom payment in bitcoins.

  • Sonia Alvarado