UK surgeon believes hackers used his computer to lead warplanes to Syrian hospital

A surgeon from the U.K. who was remotely advising Syrian physicians performing an operation at a hospital in the war-torn country believes his computer may have been hacked, leading to the hospital being bombed, according to The Telegraph.

Dr. David Nott serves as a consultant surgeon who has helped perform surgical operations throughout Syria. On just one occasion, in 2016, he delivered surgical instructions from his computer in the U.K. via Skype and WhatsApp to help physicians at an underground hospital.

That operation was later broadcast on BBC's Newsnight program, and shortly thereafter, the hidden Aleppo hospital was struck with a so-called bunker buster, a type of bomb that is able to hit underground targets. The bomb directly hit the operating room and killed two patients, permanently closing the hospital.

Dr. Nott believes his computer was targeted so hackers could obtain the precise coordinates of the hospital, referred to as M10, and command warplanes believed to be Russian to drop the bomb on the facility.

"The thing that gets me is that we now cannot help doctors in war zones, if somebody is watching what we are doing and blows up the hospital then that is a war crime," Dr. Nott told The Telegraph.

Cybersecurity experts shared their insight with BBC about the alleged cyberattack. While they noted Dr. Nott's theory could be true, they believe a more plausible explanation involves a Syrian phone number that was visible on Dr. Nott's computer screen during the broadcast. Cybersecurity researcher and blogger Graham Cluley told BBC he thinks hackers may have tried to infect the phone to obtain its exact coordinates.

Matthew Hickey, of the cybersecurity company Hacker House, said it may have been possible for a cyber actor to tap into the Syrian carrier network, ping the mobile phone and obtain its location.

"It sounds more likely as opposed to [Dr. Nott's] laptop being hacked that someone used that," Mr. Hickey told BBC. "It would have taken a matter of minutes."

Dr. Nott since changed his computer and phone, and said he will no longer use the internet to help surgeons in warzones. "It is a crime against humanity that you can't even help a doctor in another country carry out an operation. It is a travesty," he told The Telegraph.

More articles on cybersecurity:
Finger Lakes Health reports ransomware attack, unable to access computers
Banner Health under investigation for 2016 cyberattack
4 ways technology makes HIPAA easier to follow

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