A computer virus has paralyzed three hospitals in the UK forcing them to cancel hundreds of scheduled surgeries, as it targeted computers of the National Health Service (NHS). Healthcare facilities located near Lincolnshire, in the east, were the most affected.
Several medical institutions in the region share the same IT system, in order to improve the quality of provided services. To detect, isolate and eliminate the virus, hospital tech security personnel were forced to shut down the system.
Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust, an institution that coordinates medical services, classified the attack as a “major incident”, even though it did not identify the virus it was hit with.
Officials said serious emergency cases, such as high-risk women in labor, were redirected to nearby hospitals, as doctors resorted to pen and paper in order to keep working.
How the virus managed to get into the hospitals’ systems is not clear. The problem has been under investigation for several days.
Medical Institutions are Being Targeted by Cybercriminals
Hospitals and medical institutions are the perfect target for cybercriminals using viruses and ransomware, as patient care cannot be delayed. As such, healthcare facilities may pay the ransom way faster than what even the criminals expect.
On the other hand, several internet security companies have warned that medical records are worth a lot of money on the deep web, as they contain a lot of confidential information that can be used in all sorts of malicious ways.
In September, healthcare services had to pay nearly $100.000 to a ransomware attacker, and back in March a hospital in Kentucky declared a state of emergency after being hit by ransomware.
As criminals keep targeting healthcare facilities, Ben Gummer, a minister for The Cabinet of the United Kingom, said:
The Government has a clear responsibility to ensure its own systems are cyber secure. We hold and the rest of the public sector – including the NHS – hold large quantities of sensitive data and provide online services relied on by the whole country
According to The Telegraph, ministers will in the future unveil a Cyber Security Research Institute, composed of a “collection of UK universities” in order to work towards making passwords obsolete.
Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said the government will invest in a unit to “strike back” against cybercriminals who “try to harm our country”. He also announced partnerships with the intent of developing “automated defense techniques” that will stop viruses from reaching people.