United Kingdom working to restore hospital systems after cyberattack

Hospitals across the country have been forced to cancel and delay patient operations after a global cyberattack crippled computer systems.

The British public health service - the world's fifth-largest employer, with 1.7 million staff - was badly hit, with interior minister Amber Rudd saying around 45 facilities were affected.

Lord, who described an attack of this type as "inevitable", said the impact was exacerbated because most NHS Trusts had "a poor understanding of network configuration meaning everything has to shut down".

In Britain, the National Cyber Security Center said it is "working round the clock" with experts to restore vital health services.

Security officials in Britain urged organizations to protect themselves by updating their security software fixes, running anti-virus software and backing up data elsewhere.

Then came word that networks around the world were under attack Friday.

Cybersecurity firm Avast said it tracked more than 75,000 ransomware attacks in 99 countries Friday.

And all this may be just a taste of what's coming, a leading cyber security expert warned.

WannaCry is a form of "ransomware" that locks up the files on your computer and encrypts them in a way that you can not access them anymore.

The attack infected computers with what is known as "ransomware", software that locks up the user's data and flashes a message demanding payment to release it. It was always going to happen.

The attack, which locked up computers and held users' files for ransom, was believed the biggest of its kind ever recorded.

The ransomware attack is at "unprecedented level and requires worldwide investigation", Europol, the European Union's law enforcement agency, said on Twitter.

The attacks apparently exploited a flaw exposed in documents leaked from the US National Security Agency (NSA). It was reportedly distributed by the Shadow Brokers, which claimed to have hacked an NSA-linked team of hackers last August.

A cybersecurity researcher appears to have discovered a "kill switch" that can prevent the spread of the WannaCry ransomware - for now - that has caused the cyberattacks wreaking havoc globally, they told AFP Saturday.

Some experts said the threat had receded for now, in part because a British-based researcher, who declined to give his name, registered a domain that he noticed the malware was trying to connect to, limiting the worm's spread. When he tried to access patient files on a computer, he couldn't find them - even though he knew they were there.

Malware is a general term that refers to software that's harmful to your computer, said John Villasenor, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. Other impacts in the US were not readily apparent on Saturday. Short of paying, options for these individuals and companies are usually limited to recovering data files from a backup, if available, or living without them.

"Windows XP is not a good platform for keeping your data secure", she said. Microsoft says now it will make the fixes free for everyone. The state-owned oil company Petrobras and Brazil's Foreign Ministry also disconnected computers as a precautionary measure, and court systems went down, too. "The Home Secretary has responsibility for these issues but the Government is ensuring through our National Cyber Security Centre that we are giving this our full attention and working with all the organisations concerned to resolve it".

Spokesperson Irina Volk was quoted by the Interfax news agency Saturday as saying the problem had been "localised" and that no information was compromised. Russia's health ministry said its attacks were "effectively repelled".

Russian cellular phone operators Megafon and MTS were hit.

Germany's national railway said Saturday departure and arrival display screens at its train stations were affected, but there was no impact on actual train services.

French carmaker Renault's assembly plant in Slovenia halted production after it was targeted in the global cyberattack.

Images that were posted online of the NHS pop-up look almost identical to pop-up ransomware windows that hit Spain's Telefonica, a powerful attack that forced the large telecom to order employees to disconnect their computers from its network and to resort to an intercom system to relay messages, according to Bleeping Computer.

Heintz reported from Moscow and Breed from Raleigh, N.C.

  • Gina Adkins