London Hospitals Were Attacked By Russian Hackers

A parliamentary committee issued a clear warning about the risk of a “catastrophic” ransomware attack months before Russian state -protected  hackers, known as Qilin, struck the National Health Service (NHS). 

Leading London hospitals -Guy's and St Thomas' and King's College - have both been affected by the attack on the pathology services provider Synnovis by the Russian cyber criminal group Qilin

Other London hospitals which have been severely impacted by the attack include the Royal Brompton, and Evelina Children’s Hospital. South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, which provides community and mental health services has also been heavily disrupted.

Qilin shared almost 400GB of private information on their darknet site, something they threatened to do in order to extort money from Synnovis. The result is that these hospitals are running at reduced capacity because of delays to processing vital blood, urine and tissue tests.

The NHS is “particularly vulnerable” and Britain is unprepared for the “high risk” of a major cyber hack,  the parliamentary Joint Committee on National Security Strategy (JCNSS) told the Government.

Russian Hacking Groups

While the syndicate od Russian state-protected hackers is though to comprise more than 100 individual groups, is not under the direct control of the Russian Government. However, its members enjoy safe haven in the country and are seen by Moscow as a useful tool of cyber warfare and global disruption.

According the JCNSS,  the NHS was operating with “crumbling IT services and a lack of investment”, including “IT systems that are out of support or have reached the end of their lifecycle”. This put it in a “particularly difficult position to protect itself from cyber-attacks”.

Home Office ministers and officials have prioritised policy over the threat of ransomware as a national security risk and the Home Office leads on the risks of cyber security but responsibility for this should be transferred to the Prime Minister's Cabinet Office. “There is a high risk that the Government will face a catastrophic ransomware attack at any moment, and that its planning will be found lacking. If the UK is to avoid being held hostage to fortune, it is vital that ransomware becomes a more pressing political priority, and that more resources are devoted to tackling this pernicious threat to the UK’s national security,” the report said. 

In response to the report, the Government said it was making tackling ransomware a priority in an effort to raise the cyber resilience of the UK, and its critical national infrastructure. It pledged further investment and to work with industry and international partners to pursue criminal groups who conduct attacks.

The British Government claims to have spent over £338m on increasing the resilience of NHS systems to protect it from hacks, and in 2023 launched the UK’s Cyber Strategy to set minimum standards of cyber security to help defend critical infrastructure. NHS England said it had set up a helpline to support people impacted by the attack and it will continue to share updates, but "investigations of this type are complex and take time".

The British National Crime Agency (NCA) which leads the UK’s response to cyber crime, was described as being “locked in an uphill struggle against the ransomware threat, with insufficient resources and capabilities to match the scale of this challenge”. The NCA is also reported to be considering the possibility of taking retaliatory action against Qilin.

DigitalHealth   |     The Record   |    Telegraph   |    inews   |    BBC   |    Guardian   |   Independent   | 

Image: Suraphat Nuea-on

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Russia’s Nation-State Hackers: A Serious Threat To Global Security


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