Hospitals across England are being held hostage in a widespread ransomware attack.
IT systems and phone lines in National Health Service hospitals were locked up on Friday, in a coordinated attack across the country. The East and North Hertfordshire NHS trust updated its website shortly after the attack, telling visitors that they were “currently experiencing significant problems with our IT and telephone network.”
“The investigation is at an early stage but we believe the malware variant is Wanna Decryptor,” the NHS said in a statement.
The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, the Department of Health and NHS England are working to support hospitals that have been affected. IT systems have been shut down to prevent the virus from spreading further throughout the network. Hospitals are discouraging patients unless they need emergency treatment.
Ransomware is malware that encrypts important files, essentially locking people out of their computers unless they pay up or have their entire system deleted. Attacks of this kind have spiked in the last year, jumping from 340,665 attacks in 2015 to 463,841 in 2016, according to Symantec. The health care industry has become a major target, with ransomware making up more than 70 percent of malware attacks against hospitals, pharmacies and insurance agencies.