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Back @ the EPR Arms: June 2017 Cyber Cyber Cyber

Soggy spring is transitioning into soggy June via soggy May.

May called an election. Shocked us all. We all shocked (collectively) her.

Drama and sadness: London then Manchester and London again.

 

It’s no wonder Jeremy Peterson looks knackered. There’s lots going on and most of it’s not nice.

‘Pint of badgers Crushed Paw bitter please Landlord’ I cheerily shout across to Bill while I look around for a table.

Jeremy occupies a single chair at the only table with any space. It was Pub Quiz night again and all the tables were full. Our table was next to the Lab lot who’d had been at the sauce for a while and it appears from their answers their grey matter had lysed.

The Quizmaster asked ‘In what town is Cambridge University’ which triggerred an animated response on the lab table. ‘Geography’s not my strong point’ said Blister (so called as he always appears once the work is done). ‘There’s a clue in the question!’ said Sick-note.

‘Leicester’ said Animal.

‘Ay up Jez’ I said approaching Jeremy’s table. ‘Whats up wi’ yer lad? Is it Brexit? Or th’election? Bombings or stabbings? What’s making yer face all twisted and tortured?’

‘Cyber attack.’ He says as he unpicks another beer mat from his table. ‘Cyber attack’.

‘Is that the latest Doctor Who baddie then?’

‘No – our hospital computers have been attackled by ransomwear. We’ve been cyber-attacked and I have spent every hour of the last 72 sorting it out. I’m kay-enn-ackered’ Jeremy was in charge of all the IT infrastructure. A poison chalice that he neglected to duck.

‘Listen Lad,’ I say gently taking the twiddled beermat from his shakey hand and putting it down for my beer, ‘I’ll get you another drink so you can explain what the heck you are talking about! Ransomware an all’.

‘Drink! Drink. Double Vodka with a slimline tonic. Ice and slice please. With vodka! That’ll do it.’

I relay the order to Bill the landlord. It arrives within seconds. Must’ve been listening and waiting.

‘Question 10. Who painted the Sistine Chapel?’

‘Leonardo Di Caprio’ whispers Gawp in case another table stole his answer. There wasn’t much chance of that!

‘There you go Jez.  Right, now tell me all about these Cybermen then.’

‘Haven’t you read the papers? Haven’t you looked at the telly news? Didn’t you come across a news bulletin on the radio? No NEWS alerts on your mobile? Have you had your head in the sand all week?’

 ‘Erh – no to all the above. I’ve had all of me in the sand all week, not just my head. I’ve been away. Lovely. Relaxing’.

‘Well you are lucky to get back! We’ve had ‘issues’ with our computers.’

‘Issues?’ I repeated, making the inverted commas sign in the sky.

‘Right. Can I assume you know nothing about this techy stuff?’

‘Assume away!’ I said ‘and you’re not a million miles from the truth! But don’t feel obliged to fill in all my gaps!’

‘Well these nasty Hackers have been spreading a sneaky little virus called WannaCry.’

‘WannaCry?’

‘Yip – and I do. The problem is with our Windows operating system. Windows XP’.

‘Now you’re in danger of losing me (and I suspect the reader who will quickly get turned off if this becomes too techy).

‘Look – it’s not important – the techy detail I mean- but we use the Microsoft Operating Systems and there’s different versions of what they call their ‘Operating System’.

‘So what's an ‘Operating System for then Jez?’

‘Well, it meant that computers could move from being very texty, what they call DOS type green screen systems (remember the old Patient Administration Systems?), to having functionality that was more graphical and sexy. Using a mouse instead of the Function keys to navigate around the screen.’

‘Yes I remember the old PAS systems. Not sexy but they actually worked really well. And fast.’

‘Anyway, Microsoft put this graphical layer shell on top of the text stuff and the operating environment to allow this to happen was called WINDOWS.’

‘I remember way back in 1985 wasn’t it? Windows 1.0 had arrived’. I took this opportunity to have another sip of my beer. Nice hoppy taste.

‘Followed by Windows 2 and 2.1 Windows3, 3.1, 3.2 and then Windows 95 and 98 then Windows ME (Millenium) and alongside all this was a parallel development of Windows NT’.

‘Boring!’

‘And question 15 – name a bird with a long neck’.

‘Naomi Campbell’ said Sick Note. They were in with a real chance of getting null points tonight they were.’

‘OK let’s cut to the chase. Windows XP brought together the two streams NT and all the other windows and a lot of our NHS (and many other private and public institutions) settled on Windows XP. But Microsoft kept developing and next came Windows Vista eventually Windows 7 then 8 8.1 and 10.

‘OK this windows talk is getting very ‘pane-full’.

Groan

Jeremy continued regardless. ‘A lot of Trusts were getting into digital records and clinical systems at about the time of Windows XP. They bought clinical systems that were compatible (ie worked with) Windows XP. When the next Windows version came along ie Windows 7, it wasn’t easy for us to move over to it as some of our clinical applications just wouldn’t work in that newer version.

‘So you stuck with XP?’

‘So we stuck with XP. Some Trusts didn’t keep up to date with the ongoing patches/updates for many reasons. And this nasty little ransomware sneaked in, ‘encrypted’ all our files and we couldn’t get at them …’

‘Unless you paid a ransom…’

‘Unless we paid a ransom of 300 dollars in bitcoins’

‘Bitcoins?’

‘It’s like a digital payment thingy’. (See footnote[i] if you need more info)

‘And if you don’t pay?’

‘It doubles every day. And we can’t get into our files unless we pay – or get it sorted. Which is what I’ve been doing for 72 hours!’

‘But couldn’t it have been avoided? Isn’t that what you techies are supposed to do?’

‘It’s not that easy.We don’t have the staff or time to keep on top of all the patch releases. The one that would have prevented this issue was only released days before it struck. And some patches can cause some of our clinical systems not to work, so we have to check first. We have over 200 different computer applications running in our Trust. Imagine that. 200!’

‘’So what did you do to get shot of it then?’

‘We had to manually get rid of it wherever it was using our virus software. But that wasn’t easy and it took time. 72 hours actually! But now we’ve installed the patches.’

I had my final sip of now warm beer and signalled to Bill for a refill. ‘I assume it’s just us lot in our undervalued and under-funded NHS then?

‘Oh no – nothing like. Athough you’d’ve thought so looking at our press reports! The countries most affected by WannaCry to date were Russia, where the Interior Ministry was hit, Taiwan, Ukraine and India.  Leading international shipper FedEx Corp was another high-profile victim, while in Spain telecommunications company Telefonica was among many targets in the country. Portugal Telecom and Telefonica Argentina both said they were also targeted. In Germany, railway operator Deutsche Bahn was a high-profile target, with screens at stations showing the ransomware message.’

‘Nice to know we were not alone eh?’

‘And it’s the last thing we need when trying to convince doubting Thomases to move from paper to computers isn’t it!’

‘That is true.’

Were you affected by this latest attack? How did you manage? What was your ‘back-up plan?’ Did it work? Why not share your experiences with me ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) and we can collect and share our casestudies.

Name something made from wool’.

‘A sheep’

I WannaCry.

 

 

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