NHS Cyber Attack
Recently on the news you may remember a huge cyber-attack on the NHS, cyber attacks are more common that we think but the one on the NHS was high profile. But what exactly happened?
Hackers spread something called ransomware. It is a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid. The ransomeware used in the NHS attack was called WannaCry, also known as WanaCrypt0r 2.0, WannaCry or WCry. It’s usually sent in emails which trick the person into opening attachments/files and putting malware onto their system.
Once your computer has been affected, it locks up the files and encrypts them in a way so then you can’t access them anymore. The hack tells you that the creators can decrypt the files and charge you in something called bitcoin in order to regain access. Security experts say there is no guarantee that access will be given back after payment. Some ransomware make you pay more if you haven’t paid them in a matter of a few days, demanding more money and threatening to delete the files altogether.
Mike Nodding, an IT teacher at Boston High School told YJA, ”It’s pointless because all the hackers want is money and they could probably get that in other ways rather than holding peoples medical records to ransom.” It was recently reported that Theresa May’s government failed to upgrade the NHS’s computer systems a few years ago and this is a huge factor in the system being bale to hacked in the first place. We asked Mr Nodding his thoughts on this glaring error? “Why is a company as big as NHS still using Windows XP which is known to have no further security updates available?” IT manager, Andrew Pacey added “It’s very disappointing that we live in a world where people are willing to bring a public service such as the NHS to its knees, for nothing other than making money and thriving on their notoriety. The skills that these people have are complex and advanced – using security holes in software to launch their own malware – these are talents that could be put to better use. Boston High School was not affected by the WannaCry malware, however a significant amount of work was carried out during the early stages of the global WannaCry epidemic to ensure that our systems were not vulnerable.”
Who did it affect?
WannaCrypt affected many people, not just the NHS. However, it is true that in Britain, the NHS was the worst hit. Hospitals and GP surgeries in England and Scotland were among at least 16 health service organisations hit by the ransomware attack. The particular malware used was called Wanna Decryptor – with reports dozens more organisations were affected.
NHS Staff were forced to write with pen and paper and use their own phones after the attack affected key systems, including telephones. Hospitals and doctors’ surgeries in parts of England were forced to turn away patients and cancel appointments after they were infected with the ransomware, which scrambled data on computers and demanded payments of £150 to £300 to restore access. People in affected areas were being advised to seek medical care only in emergencies.
How can you prevent it from happening to you?
To stop it from happening to you, you should keep your password long and strong, and don’t use ones easy to guess such as your favourite colour or your pets name. A mix of letters and numbers is highly recommend. Install antivirus software as this can make a big difference in terms of protection for your computer system. You don’t have to pay for it either as there are plenty of free, basic options available for home users. This will be able to detect any threats and warn you/stop them so that your computer does not get infected. You should also make sure you update your system regularly, as the updates that are installed often have security updates. This is an important part of protecting your system, as it means that you will have the best chance of beating any malware.
What would you be able to do if you got attacked?
To be blunt, nothing. Unless you have your files backed up, there is probably nothing much you can do apart from learning from the experience. Keep your operating systems up to date, make sure your IT people are keeping backups and applying patches, and never, ever open suspicious emails or attachments.
For even more information go to: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/12/nhs-ransomware-cyber-attack-what-is-wanacrypt0r-20
Amelia, Year 8
Boston High YJA Newsroom