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Health and security chiefs have warned of possible fresh disruption from the global cyber-attack when workers switch on their computers for the first time at the start of the working week.
Europol, the pan-EU crime-fighting agency, said the threat was escalating and predicted the number of ransomware victims was likely to grow across the private and public sectors.
Some in five NHS Trusts was hit by the Wannacry attack on Friday. Operations planned for Monday have been cancelled at several major hospitals, with patients facing disruption to their treatment because computers used to share patients’ test results and scans with doctors remain frozen.
The National Cyber Security Centre warned that more cases of the ransomware were expected to come to light beyond the NHS and possibly at a significant scale. However, it stressed there were software updates that were easy to install and can prevent the spread of the malware which requests victims pay $300 or risk losing all their files.
Many of England’s 8,000 GP surgeries could be affected for the first time on Monday. Some parts of the NHS will not have clocked there is an issue.
Surgeries were sent a bulletin on Sunday advising them what to do if they discovered their computers had been hacked and how to get support from NHS Digital and the National Cyber Security Centre.
Some planned operations are being cancelled at Barts Health NHS trust which operates five London hospitals where computers remain down. GPs have been asked not to request non-urgent scans and tests and some emergency cases are being diverted to nearby hospitals.
The attack has hit companies and other organisations, from Russia to Australia, and Europol estimates there have been 200,000 victims in at least 150 countries.
The hackers remain undetected but are believed to have so far gathered only $42,000 in ransom payments from about 100 victims. This is expected to rise as the malware threatens that the ransom will double if victims fail to pay $300 in bitcoin currency within three days. It threatens files will be deleted if there is no payment within seven days.
Organisations across the globe, including investigators from Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA), are involved in what Europol described as a complex international investigation.
Cyber security experts said the malware could spread through computers with unpatched versions of Microsoft Windows. They have urged users to only run their computers in safe mode until they have checked that the update blocking the ransomware is installed.
Six NHS Trusts were still affected 24 hours after the attack amid concerns that their networks were left vulnerable because they were using outdated Windows XP software and also because security upgrades issued last month had not been installed.