Worldwide ransomware attack hits hospitals, FedEx: 6 things to know

A worldwide ransomware attack hit organizations across multiple continents Friday, with preliminary evidence showing infections in at least 14 countries, according to Reuters.

No hospitals in the United States have reported experiencing an attack as of 2:30 p.m. CST, however, the ransomware has brought down operations at multiple facilities in the U.K.'s national healthcare system. The main U.S. target thus far is FedEx.

Here are six things to know.

1. Security experts report the ransomware variant exploits a vulnerability discovered by the National Security Agency in the U.S., according to The New York Times. Many organizations, including hospitals, had not appropriately updated their systems to address this vulnerability.

2. The ransomware was distributed via email, in which users were sent an encrypted file that, once loaded, would infect their system, The New York Times reports. Affected organizations report seeing similar messages that request roughly $300 in Bitcoin to unencrypt their files.

3. Organizations in North America, Europe and Asia have all been affected by the ransomware attack, according to Forbes. MalwareTech, a security researcher, reported 1,600 organizations in the U.S. have been infected with the ransomware.

4. One of the most prominent attacks hit healthcare facilities affiliated with the U.K. National Health Service. NHS reported 16 affected organizations, as of 2:30 p.m. CST. The ransomware — which locked healthcare workers out of IT systems, including patient files — led NHS to cancel routine operations and divert ambulances, according to The Financial Times.

5. In a statement posted on NHS Digital — which said the malware variant is called Wanna Decryptor — NHS emphasized the attack "was not specifically targeted at the NHS and is affecting organisations from across a range of sectors." For instance, the ransomware hit Telefonica, a major telecommunications company based in Spain, according to Reuters.

6. In the United States, FedEx was reportedly hit by the ransomware variant. In a statement obtained by The Commercial Appeal, FedEx spokesman Jim McCluskey said: "Like many other companies, FedEx is experiencing interference with some of our Windows-based systems caused by malware. We are implementing remediation steps as quickly as possible. We regret any inconvenience to our customers."

Editor's note: Becker's Hospital Review will update as more information is available.

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