Lessons from the Recent Cyberattack that Crippled Computers across the Globe

May 19, 2017 | Aging Services Risk, Quality, & Safety Guidance

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​Britain's National Health Service (NHS) was the highest-profile victim of a worldwide ransomware attack that crippled computers in nearly 100 countries on May 12, 2017. More than 90% of NHS computers were using Windows XP, a 15-year-old operating system that made them susceptible to the attack, according to a May 13, 2017, article in The Guardian. Microsoft released a software patch to fix the problem in March, but a large number of organizations did not install it. NHS issued a warning Friday morning that "a serious ransomware threat" was imminent, but it proved impossible to stop. Patient records, phone lines, and e-mails were rendered inaccessible at health facilities across Britain, forcing staff to use pen and paper, as well as their personal mobile phones. The ransomware displayed a pop-up message that said computers would be inaccessible unless a ransom of $300 per infected computer was paid in online currency. One worker quoted in the story said the attack appeared to be the result of someone opening an e-mail attachment. As of May 15, some British doctors still did not have access to full patient records, according to an article in the New York Times, and some patients may have postponed medical care.

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