Government agencies and leading companies from Britain, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Ukraine have reported being hit by an extensive cyberattack on Friday.
Officials from Britain’s National Health Service said hospitals across the country were hit by a “ransomware” cyberattack that has blocked some access to patient information and caused emergency rooms to close. NHS officials said there was no evidence that patient data had been accessed.
NHS Digital, which oversees hospital cybersecurity, says the attack used the Wanna Decryptor variant of malware, which holds affected computers hostage while the attackers demand a ransom.
Spanish government officials have also blamed ransomeware attacks on numerous entities including the country’s targets telecom provider, Telefónica. On Friday, the Industry Ministry said the attack affected the Windows operating system of employees’ computers.
Similar ransomware attacks were reported in Italy and Ukraine. Officials say it is unclear if the attacks were coordinated.
NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers, who also heads U.S. Cyber Command, warned Washington lawmakers Tuesday that America’s enemies in the cyberspace realm “have grown more sophisticated and assertive” — especially Russia, which has increasingly attempted to undermine democracies across the world through cyberattacks.
Testifying to a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Adm. Rogers also raised eyebrows by discussing a “worst-case scenario” cyberattack on critical infrastructure that would go beyond revealing data — such as a WikiLeaks hack — and would entail the manipulation of vital national data on a “massive scale.”
During his remarks, Adm. Rogers specifically discussed the increasing use of ransomware, which is used by criminals to kidnap, or lock, the data or intellectual property of an individual or business. To unlock the data and regain control of files, one must pay a ransom.
On Friday in Britain, pictures of NHS computer screens were featured on social media. The screen shots showed demands for $300 worth of the online currency Bitcoin — to regain access to files. The pictures also said: “ooops, your files have been encrypted!”
• This story is based in part on wire service reports.