LONDON — Britain’s National Cyber Security Center said Saturday teams are working “round the clock” to restore hospital computer systems after a global cyberattack that hit dozens of countries forced British hospitals to cancel and delay treatment for patients.
The extortion attack, which locked up computers and held users’ files for ransom, was believed the biggest of its kind ever recorded, disrupting services from the U.S. to Russia, Spain and India. It appeared to exploit a vulnerability purportedly identified for use by the U.S. National Security Agency and later leaked to the internet.
Two security firms — Kaspersky Lab and Avast — said they had identified the malicious software behind the attack in upward of 70 countries, although both said the attack has hit Russia hardest.
The Russian Interior Ministry confirmed it was among those that fell victim to the “ransomware” — software that locks up a computer and typically flashes a message demanding payment to release the user’s data.
British Home Secretary Amber Rudd said Saturday that 45 public health organizations were hit, but she stressed that no patient data had been stolen. The attack froze computers at hospitals across the country, with some canceling all routine procedures. Patients were asked not to come to hospitals unless it was an emergency.