On Friday, a cyber-attack hit 45,000 computer systems globally, leaving thousands of patients without treatment. Although the hackers’ identifies are still unknown, an estimated 99 countries were targeted in the attack. The hackers seized control of computer systems, demanding a ransom be paid in Bitcoin before they would restore access to their victims.
Reportedly, Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) was hit the hardest in the attack but private practices, pharmacies, and clinics were also crippled by lack of access to electronic patient files. Countless men, women, and children were turned away from these facilities, whether they had a broken toe or were pre-scheduled for surgery.
The hackers found their way into computer systems by sending out spam emails infected with malicious ransomware called WannaCry. They fooled hospital staff into thinking these were important emails, and once opened, the malicious data was encrypted onto their computers, locking them out.
Staff members saw this alarming message pop up on their computer screens Friday:
The message demanded a payment of $300 (£230) be made in Bitcoin in 7 days or all files would be deleted. Rich Barger, director of threat research with Splunk said:
“This is one of the largest global ransomware attacks the cyber community has ever seen.”
Edward Snowden offered his input on the incident, tweeting: “In light of today’s attack, Congress needs to be asking @NSAgov if it knows of any other vulnerabilities in software used in our hospitals.”
That is very good advice considering none of this would have happened if the hackers had not been able to exploit the NSA’s piece of code called “Eternal Blue”. The NSA created “Eternal Blue” as a spying tool but it was supposedly stolen by hackers called the Shadow Brokers earlier this year.
It has not been revealed how many people actually submitted payments to the hackers but the NHS alone will suffer millions in rescheduling costs. At this time, the NHS does not have any proof patient data has been compromised but it is only a matter of time before investigators uncover the full extent of the damage.