Cyberattack hit one in five NHS England trusts, Home Secretary confirms

Colchester General Hospital

Experts say the spread of the virus had been stymied by a security researcher in the U.K. Hackers have issued new versions of the virus that cyber security organizations are actively trying to counter and stamp out.

The cyberattack has disrupted hospitals and companies across Europe, Asia and the USA, with Russian Federation reported to be among the hardest-hit countries.

"I don't think it's to do with that preparedness".

In many areas, with the exception of NHS Lanarkshire, the number of PCs or systems affected is said to be in single figures.

"Ambulances are being diverted to nearby hospitals and we are sorry that we have had to cancel some routine appointments".

Rudd said the government did not know if the attack was directed by a foreign government.

The attack held hospitals and other entities hostage by freezing their computers, encrypting their data and demanding money through online bitcoin payment - $300 at first, rising to $600 before it destroys files hours later.

Europol executive director Rob Wainwright said the situation could worsen on Monday when workers return to their offices after the weekend and log on.

British Home Secretary Amber Rudd said Saturday that 45 public health organizations were hit, but she stressed that no patient data had been stolen. All sectors of the economy were vulnerable and organizations could take lessons from the banking industry, which appeared to have largely escaped the global attack.

According to The Register, a spokesperson for the country's National Health Service's digital division said: "The investigation is at an early stage but we believe the malware variant is Wanna Decryptor".

Telefónica: Spanish authorities confirmed the Spanish telecom company Telefónica was one of the targets, though the attack affected only some computers and did not compromise the security of clients' information.

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British Defence minister Michael Fallon told the BBC the government, under Prime Minister Theresa May, was spending around £50 million [NZ$94 million] on improving the computer systems in the NHS after warning the service that it needed to reduce its exposure to "the weakest system, the Windows XP".

The ransomware appeared to exploit a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows that was purportedly identified by the U.S. National Security Agency for its own intelligence-gathering purposes.

Darien Huss, a 28-year-old research engineer who helped MalwareTech, agreed the threat was far from over.

He told the newspaper: "The whole place has been shut down - they sent us all home because the fire alarms and everything were going off". "But there's clearly some culpability on the part of the US intelligence services".

The attack is unique, according to Europol, because it combines ransomware with a worm function, meaning once one machine is infected, the entire internal network is scanned and other vulnerable machines are infected.

"At this stage", the NHS said, "we do not have any evidence that patient data has been accessed".

Hospitals, companies, universities and governments across almost 100 countries were hounded by a cyberattack that locked computers and demanded ransom. Users are then asked to pay the attackers a "ransom" to regain control, but Mr MacGibbon said businesses were better off relying on their backups if they have them.

Union members at French carmaker Renault say the global cyberattack has forced it to halt production at sites in France in an effort to stop the malware from spreading.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in a statement late Friday, encouraged people to update their operating systems.

Elsewhere in Europe, the attack also hit companies including Spain's Telefonica, a global broadband and telecommunications company.