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Global Cyber Attack’s Effects Still Reverberating Days Later

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Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor
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Several hospitals and similar facilities in the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) are still struggling to return to normal operations after a massive, cyber attack Friday, according to a report from ZDNet published Monday.

The ransomware attack infected thousands more computers Monday, mostly within Asia, according to multiple reports, showing that the global hacking assault’s effects are still echoing days later. It is estimated that the virtual breach negatively impacted more than 150 countries.

Ransomware is a form of infected software designed to take over a computer system and then block access for the authorized user. Hackers encrypt information vital to the performance of hospitals or other institutions, then demand money (usually in the form of BitCoin, a digital currency) in return for the encryption password.

An NHS official says the two main issues are returning the computer systems completely back to normal, and managing to reschedule all of the medical procedures and appointments, reports Financial Times.

The ransomware assault triggered internal chaos at various NHS institutions by crippling doctors’ and administrators’ ability to access patient files and virtually coordinate. Emergency services and critical examinations were temporarily suspended, causing severely ill and injured people to have to wait for medical attention.

The cyber attack affected many NHS facilities that use a 15-year-old operating system for its virtual infrastructure, which likely contributed to its vulnerability.

Nine out of ten NHS organizations use antiquated computer systems, specifically Windows XP, according to Citrix, a software company. NHS Digital, the service’s tech division, says that it is actually a “much smaller number,” even though Citrix acquired the data through freedom of information requests, reports BBC News.

A computer researcher who goes by MalwareTech was able to help stave off the onslaught of ransomware attacks with a $10.69 purchase, somewhat displaying that there are relatively cheap and easy ways to help curb cyber threats.

Many virtual breaches, for example, occur because people’s passwords are surreptitiously and illegally obtained (often through phishing, the attempt to acquire sensitive data by tricking unsuspecting users to click on infected links). (RELATED: Advanced Cybersecurity: The Simple Password May Soon Be Obsolete)

Two-factor authentication can help deter password divulgence or theft. The safety mechanism adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to input another personally identifiable credential along with the typical alpha-numerical password, like a PIN or phone number.

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