New Strain of Computer Virus Rages Across Hospitals in Britain
On May 12th of this year, hackers pulled off the largest cyberattack in history, affecting more than 200,000 computers across 150 countries. The virus, known as WannaCry, is a strain of ransomware which attacks out of date Microsoft software, locks all accessible files, and releases them only upon payment. The hackers have reportedly been demanding anywhere from $300 to $600 to return files to their owners . While the hackers have not been identified yet, the source of their software has been traced to tools developed by the U.S. National Security Agency, intended for use against terrorists and adversaries. The software was leaked by a group called the Shadow Brokers in April for unknown reasons.
WannaCry was particularly detrimental to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, Germany’s largest train operator, and Russian banks. Unfortunately, it is common for large agencies such as these to forgo software updates in order to avoid any system lags or shutdown caused by the update process. Ransomware is a serious threat to hospitals where access to patient records and results could mean the difference between life and death. This risk resulted in the shutdown of 48 of the UK’s NHS organizations that were infected with WannaCry. Luckily, no patient data has been reported to be compromised from the attack and all but six of the organizations have resumed normal operation .
While a killswitch was identified by a researcher at KryptosLogic before any serious damage was done to any US companies; however, this is only a temporary solution. The threat of a revised virus is still high, risking the security of the United States’ health care, as well as other similarly organized institutions. Alex Heid, chief research officer at SecurityScorecard, “a risk management cybersecurity firm that tracks cyber attacks on health care in the U.S.” has expressed concerned of a similar threat to the US . Heid stated that while the American health care system is less centralized than the UK’s “there is a lot of legacy software and outdated software that is very prevalent in the medical field” that is vulnerable to future attack .
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