Has the NHS been hit by another cyberattack? Online rumours denied by insiders

Related: What is WannaCry? Wochit

NHS Digital has rubbished online speculation about a fresh wave of cyberattacks hitting the UK's health service, saying the mix-up is likely due to a ransomware infection at University College London being conflated with the similarly-named University College Hospital.

"We can confirm this is just rumour and if you look at our Twitter feed you will see that we have stated this online and are responding to social media statements," an NHS Digital spokesperson told IBTimes UK in a short statement this week (15 June).

On Twitter, the NHS's IT team was forced to reply to mounting queries about an alleged ransomware attack.

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"There are currently no known significant cyber security threats affecting health," it posted to multiple accounts. "Latest standard bulletin is available to NHS IT teams."

Throughout the day a number of posts on social media appeared to indicate new cyberattacks had been taking place. "Hearing rumours at work in NHS of another #cyberattack. 3 separate sources. Nothing official," tweeted London-based Dr Benjamin Thomas.

"I think something is happening with NHS computers again. Just had a nightmare at the doctors. Let's hope it's not NHS cyberattack part 2," a separate tweet read. Meanwhile, another person online claimed to have been sent home after being "told to turn off all PCs."

All speculation, it seems, was unfounded.

On 12 May, the UK's health service was thrusted into chaos after a strain of ransomware dubbed "WannaCry" spread through it systems, locking down computers and demanding cryptocurrency. This was part of a global breakout that eventually spread to more than 150 countries.

The ransomware was super-powered by a number of computer exploits developed by the US National Security Agency (NSA), leaked online in April by a mysterious hacking group known as The Shadow Brokers. Later, analysts claimed the malware's code indicated links to North Korea.

The outbreak spread quickly by targeting unpatched Windows systems. This week, as part of the monthly Patch Tuesday schedule, Microsoft released a number of unusual updates to past versions of its software, only adding to speculation that a fresh round of attacks was imminent.

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If you're an IT manager and you believe your organisation is affected and require support or further information, contact NHS Digital on carecert@nhsdigital.nhs.uk or by calling 0800 0856653.

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