Hospitals and healthcare establishments in Britain today were forced to turn away patients and cancel appointments after getting hit with a massive ransomware cyber attack.
The UK’s National Health Service said that dozens of organizations have been affected by the ransomware attack, causing major disruptions to IT systems.
Ransomware attacks typically remotely encrypt files on a computer and hold them until the owners, or users of the files, pay a fee.
The NHS said that the attack involved a variant of the WannaCry Decryptor malware program, but that the NHS and the UK were not specifically targeted.
No patient data was believed to have been accessed during the attack, and Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre and National Crime Agency have said that they are currently investigating the issue.
At least 21 hospitals and healthcare facilities were affected by the attack. Phone systems, X-ray services and patient administration systems have been affected, while 1 doctor in eastern England reported all cancer treatments had been suspended in his area.
Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab dubbed the attack “WannaCry,” and said that files in the attack are encrypted with the extension “.WCRY” added to the file names. The group said it has recorded more than 45,000 attacks from the ransomware program from 74 countries around the world.
The malware requests $600 USD in Bitcoin to decrypt the user’s files, according to Kaspersky, which added that the amount requested could be increasing. The malware tool was designed to address multiple countries and is translated into a number of different languages, the group added.
The tool used in the attack was made available by the group codenamed Shadowbrokers on April 14. Microsoft released a patch to correct the vulnerability exploited by the tool on March 14.
No group has been identified as responsible for the attack so far.
Material from Reuters was used in this report