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13 May 2017

Experts have been working round- the-clock to restore IT systems of Britain s National Health Service (NHS) after a large-scale cyber-hack by an worldwide criminal gang wreaked havoc around the country.

He had highlighted an incident at Papworth Hospital near Cambridge where a nurse clicked on a malicious link and malware infected her computer and started to encrypt sensitive files. Unfortunately, this tool, along with many others, was stolen by hackers and leaked to the world in April 2017 by a hacker group calling themselves the "Shadow Brokers". Doctors' practices and pharmacies reported similar problems.

The UK cyber security expert, Beaumont has examined the ransomware attacks that were used to target NHS. Hospitals, with their often outdated IT systems and trove of confidential patient data, are a particularly tempting target.

The British government does not yet know who was behind Friday's global cyber attack that disrupted the country's health system, interior minister Amber Rudd said on Saturday.

"This is not targeted at the NHS, it's an worldwide attack and a number of countries and organisations have been affected", she added.

The attacks - which experts said affected dozens of countries - used a technique known as ransomware that locks users' files unless they pay the attackers a designated sum in the virtual currency Bitcoin.

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Alan Woodward, visiting professor of computing at the University of Surrey, said there was evidence the ransomware was spreading using a Microsoft flaw exposed in a recent leak of information from USA intelligence agencies.

Like all malware, ransomware too exploits vulnerabilities in operating systems.

"The recent attack is at an unprecedented level and will require a complex worldwide investigation to identify the culprits", said Europol, Europe's policing agency. But the clock is ticking - the malware threatens to raise the ransom if payment is not made within three days.

He said the healthcare sector was particularly vulnerable because of poor digital security knowledge. Ransomware is a type of malware that essentially takes over a computer and prevents users from accessing data on the computer until a ransom is paid, he said.

Spain, meanwhile, activated a special protocol to protect critical infrastructure in response to the "massive infection" of personal and corporate computers in ransomware attacks.

However shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the attack was "terrible news and a real worry for patients" and urged the Government to be "clear about what's happened". Computers running Microsoft Windows were infected with "WanaCrypt0r 2.0 or WannaCry" ransomware.

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Spain's Telefonica, a global broadband and telecommunications company, was among the companies hit.

London's Barts Health NHS Trust, the largest trust in the United Kingdom, cancelled all outpatient appointments at its five hospitals today. "It's stressful enough for someone going through recovery or treatment for cancer".

The internal network had been affected, he said, adding that in terms of the company's customer services, the work of the support team had been temporarily hindered, "as operators use computers" to provide their services. It is an worldwide attack.

Scottish officials convened an emergency meeting to deal with the problem, Health Secretary Shona Robison said. According to a study by IBM ransomware attacks increased by 6,000% in 2016 and at least 40% of spam emails now carry ransomware.

Non-emergency patients have been advised to use health facilities frugally, while those who are critically ill have had to be diverted to unaffected hospitals as computer systems failed in A&E units.

British hospitals suffer major cyber attack - What do we know so far?
The Shadow Brokers released Eternal Blue as part of a trove of hacking tools that they said belonged to the US spy agency. A message appearing on screens across the National Health Service warns time is running out to make payment.