PSNI warns NI may already be infected by virus

Fridays attack infected more than 125,000 computer systems and hit more than 60 NHS trusts in England and Scotland
Fridays attack infected more than 125,000 computer systems and hit more than 60 NHS trusts in England and Scotland

The PSNI has warned workers across Northern Ireland that their systems may already be infeicted by a computer virus and to be on the alert as they return to work on Monday.

Family doctors in the Republic of Ireland have also been warned not to use their practice computers on Monday until they are certain their anti-virus security systems are up to date after a mass hack which has spread around the world since Friday.

The PSNI said some people’s systems may already be infected and waiting to activate after the weekend.

Friday’s attack infected more than 125,000 computer systems, and UK security researcher “MalwareTech”, who helped to limit the ransomware attack, predicted “another one coming ... quite likely on Monday”.

The virus, which took control of users’ files, spread to 100 countries, including Spain, France and Russia.

In England, 48 NHS trusts fell victim, as did 13 NHS bodies in Scotland.

Some hospitals were forced to cancel procedures and appointments, as ambulances were directed to neighbouring hospitals free from the computer virus.

The software locks files or a whole machine until a ransom is paid.

The malware has caused severe disruption to health services, industry, transport, academia and law enforcement around the world.

Detective Chief Inspector Douglas Grant, head of PSNI Cyber Crime Centre, said: “While no incidents have been reported in Northern Ireland as yet, we do expect further infections to come to light globally over the next week and we cannot rule out the possibility that local systems may be vulnerable.

“As people return to work tomorrow after the weekend, many will have unopened, potentially infected emails in their inboxes, or their systems may already be infected and are waiting to activate.

“It is of the utmost importance that individuals and organisations act to ensure the integrity of our local cyber networks and take appropriate action to reduce the threat posed by cyber criminals.”

In the Republic, the Health Service Executive (HSE) cut its network off from external communications as a precaution.

The decision means its facilities will be unable to receive emails from outside the organisation.

But HSE chief information officer Richard Corbridge said the impact on patients is unlikely to be significant because email is rarely used to communicate with patients.

The PSNI said the latest advice and patches are now available to protect current systems via: www.ncsc.gov.uk/guidance/ransomware-latest-ncsc-guidance