Russian cyber criminal gang behind ransomware attack on London hospitals that forced cancellation of major surgeries

5 June 2024, 10:11

Russian cyber criminal gang behind ransomware attack on London hospitals that forced cancellation of major surgeries
Russian cyber criminal gang behind ransomware attack on London hospitals that forced cancellation of major surgeries. Picture: Alamy

By Christian Oliver

Russian cyber criminals are behind a ransomware attack affecting London's hospitals that has prevented patients from undergoing major surgeries and blood transfusions.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

A "critical incident" has since been declared that has led to a "severe reduction in capacity" since the attack midday Monday.

Memos to NHS staff at King's College Hospital, Guy's and St Thomas', the Royal Brompton and the Evelina London Children's Hospital, as well as primary care services in the capital, said there had been a "major IT incident".

Former chief executive of the National Cyber Security Centre Ciaran Martin said the Russians were behind the attack which targetted London's NHS services though pathology firm Synnovis.

"We believe it is a Russian group of cyber criminals who call themselves Qilin," Mr Martin said.

Ciaran Martin during an international panel discussion on global cyber issues in Glasgow.
Ciaran Martin during an international panel discussion on global cyber issues in Glasgow. Picture: Alamy

Read More: King and Queen join veterans to mark 80th anniversary of D-Day as commemorations begin in England and France

Read More: LIVE: King Charles to join veterans at D-Day 80th anniversary commemorations

"These criminal groups - there are quite a few of them - they operate freely from within Russia, they give themselves high-profile names, they've got websites on the so-called dark web, and this particular group has about a two-year history of attacking various organisations across the world," he told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme.

"They've done automotive companies, they've attacked the Big Issue here in the UK, they've attacked Australian courts. They're simply looking for money."

He said it is "unlikely" the Russian hackers would have known they would cause such serious primary healthcare disruption when they set out to do the attack.

He added: "There are two types of ransomware attack. One is when they steal a load of data and they try and extort you into paying so that isn't released, but this case is different. It's the more serious type of ransomware where the system just doesn't work.

"So, if you're working in healthcare in this trust, you're just not getting those results so it's actually seriously disruptive. "This type of ransomware has affected healthcare all over the world.

"It's particularly damaging in the United States, and where this type of cyber attack is different in terms of its impact from others, is that it does affect people's healthcare. So it's really one of the more serious that we've seen in this country."

He said the Government has a policy of not paying but the company would be free to pay the ransom if it chose to. Regarding patient data, he said: "It's not really a question of data in this one, it's a question of the services.

"The criminals are threatening to publish data, but they always do that. Here the priority is the restoration of services."

Ambulance Entrance of A&E at King's College Hospital, London
Ambulance Entrance of A&E at King's College Hospital, London. Picture: Alamy

Synnovis is a provider of pathology services and was formed from a partnership between SynLab UK & Ireland, Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust and King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Some procedures and operations at the hospitals have been cancelled or have been redirected to other NHS providers as hospital bosses establish what work can be carried out safely.

NHS officials said they are working with the National Cyber Security Centre to understand the impact of the attack. Synnovis said the incident has been reported to law enforcement and the Information Commissioner.

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said on Wednesday that her "absolute priority is patient safety".

On social media site X, formerly Twitter, Ms Atkins wrote: "Throughout yesterday I had meetings with NHS England and the National Cyber Security Centre to oversee the response to the cyber attack on pathology services in south-east London.

"My absolute priority is patient safety and the safe resumption of services in the coming days."

The Health Service Journal (HSJ) reported one senior NHS manager saying: "It's everyone's worst nightmare. The difficulty will be that when you have total system downtime, the volumes of tests will be huge. Even if you could transport samples around London to other labs how would you get the results back as they are not integrated in that way?

"Urgent tests will have to be managed onsite. They will no doubt be asking GPs to send urgent tests only, to manage volumes."

Another source told the HSJ the attack presented a huge problem for urgent and emergency care at the hospitals as they would not be able to access quick-turnaround blood test results.

Synnovis said on Wednesday it was unable to comment further on the attack but confirmed a taskforce of IT experts from the firm and the NHS were working to fully assess the impact and what action is needed.

A spokesman for NHS England London region said on Tuesday that Monday's incident was "having a significant impact" on the delivery of services at Guy's and St Thomas', King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and primary care services in south-east London.

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Exclusive
c

Angela Rayner condemns 'intimidation' of Labour's Rosie Duffield after she cancels hustings amid 'trolling and spite'

Kate and the royals came out on the Buckingham Palace balcony for the flypast

Kate joins King Charles and other royals on Buckingham Palace balcony for RAF flypast after Trooping the Colour

Exclusive
Ben Habib has hit back at suggestions Nigel Farage could join the Conservative party

Reform deputy hits back at suggestion Nigel Farage could join Tories, after leader tells LBC he could lead merged party

Olympic rings on the Eiffel Tower in Paris

IOC gives 14 Russians and 11 Belarusians neutral status for Paris Olympics

The ride got stuck upside down

Horrifying moment people get stuck upside down on theme park ride, as dozens have to be rescued

David Cameron and Nigel Farage

David Cameron says Nigel Farage is trying to destroy the Conservative Party through Reform UK

Kevin Campbell has died

Arsenal and Everton footballer Kevin Campbell dies aged 54

Kate, Charlotte, Louis, Charles and Camilla seen at the Trooping the Colour ceremony

Kate seen for first time in public since cancer diagnosis at Trooping the Colour, as King receives salute

Millwall's Matija Sarkic died

Millwall goalkeeper Matija Sarkic dies aged 26, as club 'completely devastated'

Muslim pilgrims standing at the top of the rocky hill known as the Mountain of Mercy

Muslim pilgrims converge at Mount Arafat for worship as Hajj reaches its peak

Bob Bell confronted the robber

'Hero' shop worker jumps in to grab gun-toting robber threatening colleague, as mother-in-law praises 'lovely boy'

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, arrives at Zurich airport in Switzerland

World leaders to meet at Swiss resort on possible Ukraine peace roadmap

Live
David Cameron has warned that Nigel Farage is trying to destroy the Conservative party

General Election LIVE: Cameron warns Farage is 'trying to destroy the Conservatives', as Labour tackles NHS

The coach of one of the boys said he was 'not a monster'

'He's not a monster - he just didn't have the right role models,' claims boxing coach of 12-year-old machete murderer

Wayne Lineker was punched

Wayne Lineker's 'own brand of excess and drunkenness' to blame for attack that saw him knocked out, politician says

Alan Bates, Imelda Staunton and Tracey Emin were given honours in the birthday list

Post Office campaigner Alan Bates knighted in Birthday Honours, as Imelda Staunton and Tracey Emin made dames