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As a massive hunt began for the hackers and the NHS declared a 'major incident': The 'Wanna Decryptor' virus, spread via email in what experts called a 'highly co-ordinated and aggressive' attack, locked staff out of their terminals and demanded $300 (£230) worth of the virtual currency bitcoins to release the files on each employee account.Microsoft had apparently launched a defence patch against the virus in March, but experts said few hospitals had updated their systems.
Cambridge University professor Ross Anderson said the attack looked to have exploited a weakness in Microsoft software that was previously fixed by a patch released earlier this year.But it is understood the hack has now been stopped thanks to a 'kill switch' that was built into the malware code.The hackers made the attack able to spread itself by using the NSA code, which is known as Eternal Blue.Hospitals across Britain were paralysed last night after cyber hackers held the NHS to ransom in an unprecedented global attack.Countless operations were cancelled and patients were turned away as 45 NHS organisations and trusts and hundreds of GP surgeries were locked out of their computer systems.Experts say the cyber attack used code developed by the US National Security Agency which was leaked online last month by a mysterious group called the Shadow Brokers.
Data released under the Freedom of Information Act in December suggested 90 per cent of NHS trusts are using outdated software Windows XP, which is 15 years old and has been branded 'obsolete', leaving systems more vulnerable to attacks.
The aggressive attacks dupe users into clicking on a fake link – whether it's in an email or on a fake website, causing an infection to corrupt the computer.
In some instances, adverts for pornographic website will repeatedly appear on your screen, while in others, a pop-up will state that a piece of your data will be destroyed if you don't pay.
Ticketing machines and computers at German railway stations have also been affected alongside Spanish companies including telecoms giant Telefonica, power firm Iberdrola and utility provider Gas Natural.
Shipping company Fed Ex also confirmed it was hit by the attack.
But the virus is thought to have locked doctors out of patient records, test results and X-ray scans.