The British National Health Service has declared a major incident after ransomware cyber-attacks on a number of hospital and GP surgeries across England with 22 hospitals known to be affected.
“We can’t access any patient records. Everything is fully computerised. We have no idea what drugs people are on or the allergies they have. We can’t access the appointments system,” Dr. Emma Fardon, a GP in Dundee, told the BBC.
Patients are being asked to avoid Accidents & Emergency while Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is being briefed by the National Cyber Security Centre, with the Prime Minister, Theresa May, being kept informed of the situation.
Early reports suggest a global wave of ransomware is related to NSA attacks dumped by The Shadow Brokers. According to reports, several experts have linked this global wave to vulnerabilities released by the Shadow Brokers which recently dumped hacking tools taken from USA’s National Security Agency (NSA).
Attacks have been reported in Spain, US, China, Russia, Italy, Vietnam and Taiwan. The Russian Interior Ministry was affected, according to reports, but while they of course may cause inconvenience, the attacks on Britain’s National Health Service appear to, currently, be the most serious.
NHS wasn’t specifically targeted, with the worm being an indiscriminate computer program which isn’t quite aware of the consequences or the scale of its actions for it is an inanimate object, but, the end result has vastly different consequences between a ministry department which can afford the time to pay the ransom or get some back up and emergency situations where seconds make a difference between life and death.
Sick children are being affected. Pregnant women. Potentially surgery situations. People are being asked to not turned up at the Emergency section of British hospitals, as if anyone in an emergency does so for pleasure.
This is sickening. The perpetrators should be lynched in the city square, medieval style hanged with tomatoes thrown, but they are not the only ones to blame. Fingers will probably be flying in all directions in the next few days, but one clear direction is our own spy agencies which think they are so smart they can keep secrets in this day and age.
Who is primarily to blame is irrelevant. The NSA, which operates under our governance, has been utterly reckless, and upon them rests this systemic risk. We can’t stop criminals, they will always be around, but for our own government to willfully keep such vulnerabilities for their own exploitation, and be so utterly incompetent in the process that all these vulnerabilities are actually made fully public, threatening children’s lives, bringing about a situation where citizens are asked to not attend the Accidents and Emergency section, demands a national enquiry – and a real one.
We are entering a new age. An age where digital information can have critical infrastructure elements and, however much some may want, cannot be kept secret. The solution thus is to publicly reveal such vulnerabilities so that they can be fixed instead of sending hospitals to their knees.
Hospitals. Babies. NSA must give a full report on why they horded these vulnerabilities. Why did they not inform hospitals that they are so critically vulnerable, how their secrets were stolen, and they need to present to the public measures they are to take to prevent this in the future.
Because, if our elders have not yet figured out, this may only get worse. A digital age is in. This digital age is in many ways leveling. Data can just be copied and, more so, can just be accessed.
This isn’t a physical world, a world our elders are used to. This is a magical world. A world where things are not scarce, where walls do not have to move, where code rules and currently that code talent is probably more outside the government than without it. So we look forward to the full report.
Featured image from Shutterstock.