A large number of hospitals across Britain were hit by a cyber-attack Friday, shutting down their computer systems and forcing the cancellation of patient appointments.
According to Britain’s National Health Service, hospital computers were infected with a type of “ransomware” that blocks use of a computer system until victims agree to pay the attacker a ransom to free it up.
Photos posted on social media show infected NHS computers with the message “Ooops, your files have been encrypted,” and a demand for $300 worth of Bitcoin, an anonymous online currency.
At least 16 NHS organizations reported being affected by the ransomware attack.
While the affected hospitals were forced to turn away patients and divert ambulances to other facilities, the NHS said the attackers hadn’t breached any patient data.
“NHS Digital is working closely with the National Cyber Security Center, the Department of Health and NHS England to support affected organizations and to recommend appropriate mitigations,” the health agency said in a statement.
The NHS said it was not attacked specifically, and the attack is “affecting organizations from across a range of sectors.”
Around the same time Friday, the Spanish energy ministry reported various cyber attacks aimed at Spanish companies, including telecom giant Telefonica, using ransomware software. It is not clear if the two hacking incidents are related.
Portugal Telecom was also hit by a cyber attack but no services were impacted, a spokeswoman for the company said.