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NHS staff in Preston affected by cyber attack

Posted on - 12th May, 2017 - 5:47pm | Author - | Posted in - Crime, Events, News
The screen which greeted staff at the doctor's surgery
The screen which greeted staff at the doctor’s surgery

A Preston NHS practice that serves more than 14,000 patients in Preston has been hit by a coordinated national cyber-attack described as a “ransomware” malware.

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The organisation joins a growing list of affected NHS trusts across the UK under the same attack.

Park Medical Practice, of Cottam Lane in Ashton, has confirmed to Blog Preston that it fell victim to the cyber-attack at around 12.30pm on Friday (12 May).

Gillian Hann, a doctor at Park Medical Practice, posted the below picture of the so-called ransom-ware on her Twitter account, showing the medical practices computers blocked with a pop-up demanding a £300 ransom in the form of the online ‘bitcoin’ currency, in return for recovered encrypted files.

Speaking to Blog Preston, Gillian Hann said: “We are able to access patient record systems, but slowly, as [the] ransom-ware window pops over it every 20 seconds.

“We are also unable to log on to answer our phones”.

Read more: Royal Preston Hospital force to cancel operations due to cyber attack

Gillian also said that the ransom-ware “blocked [everything] that you’re doing”, amidst growing concerns that the attack could be blocking access to vital NHS software, such as x-ray imaging systems, pathology test results and bleep systems, as reported by the Health Service Journal.

In a statement released by NHS Digital, it was confirmed that as of 3.30pm, 16 NHS organisations had reported that they were affected by the issue, before adding that the National Cyber Security Centre was made aware.

According to the statement, the malware is believed to be the “Wanna Decryptor”, which is spread through malicious attachments in spam emails, which once opened immediately begins to encrypt files. The malware makes encrypted copies of the files on the computer, before deleting the originals and only leavening behind the newly encrypted versions – which are inaccessible without a “decryption key”, which is where the ransom is made.

The Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth said: “This hack highlights a risk to data security in health services, and reinforces our need for cyber security at the heart of government planning”. Whilst the attack has not reportedly reached Ireland, Wales or Scotland, it is emerging that the attack has hit Telefonica, KPMG and other tech-based organisations around the world, including a university in Italy.

The Ashton-based surgery is advising patients to call 999 or 111 in a medical emergency whilst they deal with the attack.

A radiographer at Royal Preston Hospital tweeted Blog Preston to say she had experienced the same issue.

Yvonne Barnard said she logged on around 3pm and received the warning message. She described it as a ‘bloody nightmare’.

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