NHS Hospitals across England are being held hostage in a widespread ransomware attack.
IT systems and phone lines in National Health Service hospitals were locked up on Friday, in a coordinated attack across the country. The East and North Hertfordshire NHS trust updated its website shortly after the attack, telling visitors that they were "currently experiencing significant problems with our IT and telephone network."
"The investigation is at an early stage but we believe the malware variant is Wanna Decryptor," the NHS said in a statement.
The UK's National Cyber Security Centre, the Department of Health and NHS England are working to support hospitals that have been affected. IT systems have been shut down to prevent the virus from spreading further throughout the network. Hospitals are discouraging patients unless they need emergency treatment.
Ransomware is malware that encrypts important files, essentially locking people out of their computers unless they pay up or have their entire system deleted. Attacks of this kind have spiked in the last year, jumping from 340,665 attacks in 2015 to 463,841 in 2016, according to Symantec. The healthcare industry has become a major target, with ransomware making up more than 70 percent of malware attacks against hospitals, pharmacies and insurance agencies.
Multiple hospitals in the NHS Trust relayed the same message across social media, advising people against heading to hacked facilities while they are suffering from IT problems.
n a statement from the NHS Merseyside's information management and technology services, the trust said there had been a "suspected national cyberattack."
"We just don't understand the mentality of some people. The only people suffering are people that need emergency care," NHS staff wrote in a tweet.
As of 3:30 p.m. local time, up to 16 hospitals have been affected by the ransomware, according to the NHS.
The ransomware has hit hospitals in London, Blackburn, Nottingham, Cumbria and Hertfordshire, according to the BBC.
The ransomware is holding each computer hostage for $300 in Bitcoin (roughly £230 or AU$400). The malware demands that hospitals pay by May 15, or all the encrypted files will be deleted by May 19, according to cybersecurity firm Foursys.
"Maybe you are busy looking for a way to recover your files, but do not waste your time. Nobody can recover your files without our decryption service," the Wana Decrypt0r 2.0 malware threatened.
The NHS said that no private patient data has been stolen.
The Lancashire Post reported that hospitals were using pen and paper to record medical notes for the time being.