How the cyber attacks affected our East London boroughs

NHS Cyber attack affected Croydon GP surgeries    Pic: unidark 1 (Flickr)

Hospitals across London and GP surgeries in Croydon were affected by the cyber attack that struck hospital computer software at the end of last week.

The attack, now considered the largest scale ransomware attack ever to be launched, is the most recent incident in what has been labelled new age international warfare.

Photos that documented the attack on social media displayed a message that the computer’s files had been encrypted, demanding $300 worth of Bitcoin currency.

The computer user is unable to unlock or gain access back to the files until the requested amount has been paid. However, the individual or company have been warned by security officials that paying the ransom may still fail to unlock the files.

NHS Digital said of the incident: “It was not specifically targeted at the NHS.” It impacted organisations from varying sectors across different countries.

The tool that was used to hack computers functioned on systems using Microsoft Windows. Computers whose systems were not updated to the most recent Microsoft software were vulnerable to the attacks.

Countries such as Russia, Taiwan, Ukraine and India were all affected by the attacks. In Spain, Telefonica was targeted as well as Deutsche Bahn, a major transport station, in Germany.

Croydon Health Services has confirmed that Croydon University Hospital was not affected by the attacks.

Jeanette Albert, communications officer for Croydon University Hospital, told Eastlondonlines: “Croydon Health Services was not affected by the cyber-attack that hit many parts of the NHS.  We have, nevertheless, taken extra precautions to protect our systems, including ‘patching’ our computers and servers to make them more secure.”

A Croydon surgery, Paxton Green, however was affected and was forced to cancel all appointments and prescription services in response to the attacks.

Paxton Green GPs’ statement said: “Due to an ongoing cyber security threat we have restricted access to our IT systems.”

In a statement released by Croydon Group Practice, which includes Thornton Road Surgery and Valley Park Surgery, it said: “NHS England has advised us to shut down our PCs and telephones in response to a major cyber attack on NHS services across the UK.”

The surgeries have since resumed their normal practices, however, with “continued disruption” which may impact patients through to early next week.

It has been said that the NHS has been following protocol introduced by cyber security officials for several months. It is especially important for health care services to be protected from such attacks, given that their computers store files that allow them access to patient information and history to treat and prescribe, often in serious, life-threatening instances.

Jeanette Albert told Eastlondonlines: “The Trust has followed the ‘10 steps to cyber security’ issued by the National Cyber Security Centre.  We began this work back in October 2016.  We are continuing to monitor the situation very closely.”

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