Government blame North Korea for NHS cyber attack

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North Korea has been publicly blamed by the UK’s Security Minister for the WannaCry cyber attack which hit the NHS earlier this year.

Home Office Minister Ben Wallace said the Government believed ‘quite strongly’ that a foreign state was behind the ransomware attack and named North Korea.

Pyongyang has been widely blamed for the May cyber attack in security circles, and Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith, has also pointed the finger at Kim Jong Un’s secretive state.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that ‘we can be as sure as possible’ and ‘it is widely believed in the community and across a number of countries that North Korea had taken this role’.

Mr Wallace suggested the attack could have been motivated by an attempt by the economically isolated state to access foreign funds.

Meanwhile an independent investigation has concluded that the cyber attack which crippled parts of the NHS could have been prevented if ‘basic IT security’ measures had been taken.

The NAO’s probe found that almost 19,500 medical appointments, including 139 potential cancer referrals, were estimated to have been cancelled, with five hospitals having to divert ambulances away after being locked out of computers on May 12.

The malware is believed to have infected machines at 81 health trusts across England – a third of the 236 total, plus computers at almost 600 GP surgeries, the NAO found.

All were running computer systems – the majority Windows 7 – that had not been updated to secure them against such attacks.

When the attack came on May 12, it ripped through the out-of-date defences used by the NHS.

The virus spread via email, locking staff out of their computers and demanding £230 to release the files on each employee account.