NHS cyber-attack: Amber Rudd says lessons must be learnt – BBC News

Media captionExperts discuss the attack: “The most terrifying thing about this is how simple it is.”

The NHS “must learn” from Friday’s cyber-attack and upgrade its IT systems, the home secretary has said.

Amber Rudd told the BBC the services of some 45 NHS organisations in England and Scotland had been disrupted in the global attack that affected organisations in 100 countries.

She stressed there was no evidence that patient data had been accessed.

The head of the UK’s cyber security agency said experts were “working round the clock” to restore NHS systems.

Some British hospitals and GPs have been left unable to access patient data after their computers were locked by the malicious program.

The NHS has not been affected in Wales and Northern Ireland.

It has been reported that up to 90% of NHS hospitals are still using the Windows XP programme, with experts suggesting that the 2001 operating system has made the NHS vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

“Cyber-security is a huge industry and we can all do better to protect our businesses and our personal information,” said Ms Rudd.

“I would expect NHS trusts to learn from this and to make sure that they do upgrade.”

She accepted that Windows XP is “not a good platform” for keeping data secure, adding “after this experience I would expect [the NHS] to move forward with modernising”.

She later told Sky News that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had previously instructed NHS trusts not to use the Windows XP system.

On Saturday, in response to the global attack, Microsoft rolled out a free security update to Windows XP, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2003 “to protect their customers”.

‘Disrupt the attack’

NHS England said patients needing emergency treatment on Saturday should go to A&E or access emergency services as they normally would.

However, some ambulances have been diverted from affected hospitals and individual trusts have asked people not to attend unless it is urgent.

London’s Barts Health NHS Trust, the largest trust in the country, cancelled all outpatient appointments at its five hospitals on Saturday.

Ms Rudd told BBC Breakfast she could not confirm that all NHS files had been backed up.

“I hope the answer is yes, that is the instructions that everybody has received in the past. That is good cyber defence.

“We will find out over the next few days if there are any holes in that.”

She added: “There may be lessons to learn from this but the most important thing now is to disrupt the attack.”

Ciaran Martin, who leads the National Cyber Security Centre – part of GCHQ – said it was doing “everything in our power” to get “vital services” back up and running.

“Thousands of organisations and individuals in dozens of countries” had been hit by the attack, he said.

Those responsible have not been identified yet.

He told the BBC: “It’s important to understand that cyber attacks can be different from other forms of crime in that their sometimes highly technical and anonymous nature means it can take some time to understand how it worked, who was behind it and what the impact is.

“But our commitment is we will be as open as we can be, as soon as we can be, as our investigation continues.”

Media captionNHS cyber-attack: How doctors and patients reacted

The malware used in the attack is called WannaCry and attacks Windows operating systems.

It encrypts files on a user’s computer, blocking them from view, before demanding money, via an on-screen message, to access them again.

The demand is for a payment of $300 (£230) in virtual currency Bitcoin to unlock the files.

The virus is usually covertly installed on to computers by hiding within emails containing links, which users are tricked into opening.

Security chiefs and ministers have repeatedly highlighted the threat to Britain’s critical infrastructure and economy from cyber-attacks.

‘Hit the go button’

The former director for intelligence and cyber operations at GCHQ, Brian Lord, told BBC’s Newsnight that the NHS was particularly vulnerable to such attacks because of its ageing IT systems.

“Also [it has] very, very complex interconnectivity between surgeries, trusts, boards and so on,” he said.

“So, as a consequence, there is an awful lot of openings for delivery of this type of basic malware.”

Convicted hacker Jake Davis also told the programme: “The most terrifying thing about this is how simple it is.

Media captionWhat is ransomware?

“It might have been a sophisticated criminal organisation or it might have just been some kid who hit the go button and a worm has just spread when they went to take a nap.”

He said that two months ago Microsoft had issued a patch for the bug exploited by the virus, but some systems had not applied it.

In Russia, the Interior Ministry said about 1,000 computers had been hit.

Global impact

People tweeted photos of affected computers from other countries, including at a local railway ticket machine in Germany and in a university computer lab in Italy.

A number of Spanish firms – including telecoms giant Telefonica, power firm Iberdrola and utility provider Gas Natural – suffered from the outbreak.

Portugal Telecom, delivery company FedEx, a Swedish local authority and Megafon, the second largest mobile phone network in Russia, also said they had been affected.

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