Hospitals and doctors across England were forced to turn away patients and cancel appointments on Friday after a nationwide ransomware cyberattack crippled some computer systems in the state-run health service.
The National Health Service (NHS) said 16 organizations had been affected by the cyberattack, but added that it had not been specifically targeted.
No patient data was believed to have been accessed by the ransomware attack, but it was unclear whether it had impacted any emergency cases.
“The investigation is at an early stage but we believe the malware variant is Wanna Decryptor,” NHS Digital, the computer arm of the English health service, said in a statement.
“This attack was not specifically targeted at the NHS and is affecting organisations from across a range of sectors.”
Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre, part of the GCHQ spy agency, said it was aware of a cyber incident and was working with NHS Digital and the police to investigate.
Hospitals across England reported that the cyberattack was causing massive problems to their services, and the public in areas affected was being advised to only seek medical care for emergencies.
A reporter from the Health Service Journal said the attack had affected X-ray imaging systems, pathology test results, phone systems and patient administration systems.
The Barts Health group, which manages major central London hospitals including The Royal London and St Bartholomew’s, said that it had activated a major incident plan and had canceled routine appointments.
“We are experiencing a major IT disruption and there are delays at all of our hospitals,” it said. “Ambulances are being diverted to neighbouring hospitals.”
Earlier on Friday, Spain’s government warned that a large number of companies had been attacked by cybercriminals who infected computers with ransomware, which locks up computers and demands ransoms to restore access.