"Ransomware" cyberattack cripples hospitals across England

In the UK, United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust said it was cancelling some weekend appointments because of the attack, which had affected Lincoln County Hospital, Pilgrim Hospital and Grantham Hospital. Microsoft rolled out a patch for the vulnerability last March, but hackers took advantage of the fact that vulnerable targets - particularly hospitals - had yet to update their systems.

The attack has locked computers and blocked access to patient files. It said 16 NHS organizations had reported being hit.

The attack came as several companies in Spain were hit by ransomware attacks. The payment was demanded per computer, to be paid in Bitcoin, an untraceable digital currency.

A spokeswoman for NHS Forth Valley said: "We can confirm that a small number of GP and dental practices in the Forth Valley area have experienced disruption to their it systems which may be linked to the wider IT issues affecting parts of NHS England".

Computer and phone systems in hospitals across England suffered large-scale failures Friday in a suspected cyber-attack.

The organization said it did "not have any evidence that patient data has been accessed". It also hit major corporations, including Spanish telecoms giant Telefónica - the parent company of the United Kingdom mobile network O2 - as well as computer systems in Russian Federation, the USA, Japan, and France.

NHS Digital, which oversees hospital cybersecurity, says the attack used the Wanna Decryptor variant of malware, which infects and locks computers while the attackers demand a ransom.

NHS Lanarkshire said only patients who required emergency treatment should go to hospital while the problem was being investigated.

Cyber security firm Kaspersky Lab said: "It's important to understand that while unpatched Windows computers exposing their SMB services can be remotely attacked with the "EternalBlue" exploit and infected by the WannaCry ransomware, the lack of existence of this vulnerability doesn't really prevent the ransomware component from working".

The Department of Homeland Security says it's coordinating with "international cyber partners" in the wake of the widespread attacks.

English hospitals and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in London, Blackpool, Hertfordshire and Derbyshire were among those to report problems. "But we will continue to communicate with NHS colleagues and will share more information as it becomes available".

As with other organisations, there is also a tendency to use an array of cyber-defence systems which inevitably work in silos and this very patchwork of "protection" lulls institutions into a false sense of security when in reality they're incredibly exposed.