Worldwide cyber attack: 74 countries targeted, hospitals in UK in chaos following hacking

A fast-moving and devastating wave of cyberattacks is sweeping the globe, reportedly exploiting a flaw exposed in documents leaked from the US National Security Agency.

A ransomware cyber attack has most recently has hit up to 74 countries and reduced the National Health Service (NH) to its knees, with operations cancelled and GP surgeries closed.

Non-emergency procedures have been suspended and ambulances are being diverted as part of what is now believed to be a co-ordinated cyber attack targeting dozens of countries.

Screenshot of the suspected ransomware message on a GP's computer. Source: Supplied
Screenshot of the suspected ransomware message on a GP's computer. Source: Supplied

The internal IT systems of 23 NHS organisations in England and Scotland, including many trusts and hospitals, have been affected by the sophisticated ransomware attack.

Other high-profile organisations have also fallen victim, including Spanish telecommunications firm Telefonica and Portugal Telecom. Tens of thousands of computers are thought to be affected worldwide.

The attacks involve malicious software blocking victims from accessing data and demanding a ransom in exchange for access being returned.

One junior doctor, who wished to remain anonymous, told Sky News the hackers had "stopped access to everything, including patients' medical records" at their hospital and warned: "It could be potentially life-threatening".

Some hospitals such as Colchester General Hospital have not been directly targeted but are protecting their IT systems by completely shutting them down as a precaution.

Prime Minister Theresa May said there was no evidence patient records had been compromised.

Where the hack attack has spread. Source: Supplied
Where the hack attack has spread. Source: Supplied

NHS Digital, which runs the health service's IT systems, believes it has identified the malware software known as WannaCry, also known as Wanna Decryptor, which appears to be requesting $300 from victims to decrypt their computers.

"At this stage we do not have any evidence that patient data has been accessed," NHS Digital said, adding that it will "continue to work with affected organisations to confirm this".

"NHS Digital is working closely with the National Cyber Security Centre, the Department of Health and NHS England to support affected organisations and to recommend appropriate mitigations.

"This attack was not specifically targeted at the NHS and is affecting organisations from across a range of sectors."

At the stage no one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

There are no confirmed reports Australian organisations have been hit by a malware attack.

Newsbreak – May 13

"We are continuing to monitor the situation closely and stand ready to deal with any cyber security threat to Australia's critical infrastructure," Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said through a spokesman on Saturday.

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