British hospitals, Spanish firms hit by cyber attacks

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Several British hospitals were hit by cyber attacks on Friday, the country's health service said, forcing some to divert ambulances to other clinics and urge people not to try to contact their doctors.

PATIENTS were told to stay away from hospitals unless in an emergency yesterday after Scotland's NHS was caught up in a major cyber attack that left computer systems down across the country.

IT security firms Kaspersky Lab and Avast said they had identified the malware behind the attack in upward of 70 countries, although both said the attack had hit Russian Federation hardest.

Hospitals in areas across Britain found themselves without access to their computers or phone systems.

Patients were facing a weekend of chaos in the NHS as security services hunted an global criminal gang that crippled health boards and hospitals with a cyberattack.

Theresa May said the Government is not aware of any evidence patient records had been compromised.

There are reports that trusts affected include East and North Hertfordshire, North Cumbria, Morecambe Bay hospitals, Blackpool, and Barts Health in London.

"In my article I mention that one hospital came out publicly a year ago and said that they had paid a ransom to the hackers... it may be that others decide to do that", he said.

NHS Digital, which oversees United Kingdom hospital cyber security, says the attack used the Wanna Decryptor variant of malware, which infects and locks computers while the attackers demand a ransom. Microsoft issued a security update on March 14 about vulnerabilities in the Windows system.

The news is also likely to embolden cyber extortionists when selecting targets, Chris Camacho, chief strategy officer with cyber intelligence firm Flashpoint, said. The committee denied the reports.

Authorities in Britain have been braced for possible cyberattacks in the run-up to the vote, as happened during last year's U.S. election and on the eve of this month's presidential vote in France.

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In Russia, the Interior Ministry said around 1,000 computers were hit by a cyber attack. In February 2016, the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in California said it had paid a $17,000 ransom to regain control of its computers from hackers.

Britain's National Health Service was a target of a "ransomware" cyberattack on Friday, officials said, which hijacked computer data and demanded $300 for its return.

Spain, meanwhile, said several Spanish companies had been targeted in ransomware cyberattack that affected the Windows operating system of employees' computers.

Spain's Telefonica was among the companies hit.

In a statement, FedEx said it has been badly hit by the cyber attack.

"We have around 70 computers that have had a risky code installed", said Andreaz Stromgren, the mayor of Timra, about 400 km north of the capital Stockholm. The perpetrators then offer to release the computer files for a price.

"And some of them may not be well prepared for such attacks", Camacho said.In Spain, some big firms took pre-emptive steps to thwart ransomware attacks following a warning from Spain's National Cryptology Centre of "a massive ransomware attack".

"Today our engineers added detection and protection against new malicious software known as Ransom:Win32.WannaCrypt", a Microsoft spokesman said in a statement. It said it was working to resolve the problem.

WannaCry is a form of ransomware that locks up the files on your computer and encrypts them in a way that you can not access them anymore. Security researchers said they observed some victims paying via the digital currency bitcoin, though they did not know what percent had given in to the extortionists.

Security experts warn there is no guarantee that access will be granted after payment. It's a piece of malicious software that encrypts files on a user's computer, blocking them from view and threatening to delete them unless a payment is made.