Feeds

Three hospital worm infection dubbed 'substantive failure'

Entirely avoidable

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

A worm attack that forced three London hospitals to shut down their computer networks late last year was entirely avoidable and represented a major failing by the organizations' IT staff, according to an independent review of the incident.

In mid-November, the Mytob worm wiggled its way into 4,700 PCs used by St Bartholomew's (Barts), the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, and The London Chest Hospital in Bethnal Green, and this forced the hospitals to reroute ambulances and scale back some "non-essential activities" while the infection was being contained. In some cases, doctors had to resort to pen and paper backup systems.

It took three days to restore key administrative systems such as email, and it took another two weeks to fully scan some 5,000 PCs belonging to the three hospitals, which collectively make up Barts and the London NHS Trust.

"The review concluded that the incident was 'entirely avoidable' and there was a 'substantive failure' of the Trust's information governance processes, 'especially those operational processes in the ICT domain,'" the independent review concluded. Only a portion of the report (PDF) was made public to prevent the airing of sensitive security details.

The failure at least partially involved the incorrect configuration of anti-virus software, which the report claimed left a back door for the worm to infiltrate the network. While the review didn't identify the package, IDG News says here that the hospitals used McAfee 8.5 anti-virus product, which had been able to identify Mytob for more than three years prior to the infection.

Mytob, which also goes under the name MyDoom, was introduced "accidentally" into the network with "no malicious intent," the report concluded without providing details.

The vulnerability of hospitals and other health organizations to malware attacks continues to be a major concern for administrators. Last month, hospitals around Sheffield in the UK came under attack by virulent worm known alternately as Downadup and Conficker. At least 800 PCs were confirmed to be infected, with many more potentially suspected.

The mass infiltration was allowed to take hold after administrators disabled Windows security updates, which were blamed for causing computers to reboot during surgery. Microsoft has offered a patch for the Conficker vulnerability since October, when it released an emergency update and strongly advised all customers to install it immediately.

The independent review offered 11 specific recommendations that fell into five categories:

  • Additional training to specific staff groups
  • Command and control arrangements
  • Administration and documentation within the control room
  • Categorized identification of Trust priority areas
  • Register of staff skills that can aid Trust response

The report also found hospital staff were able to ensure patient safety even during the outbreak.

"The Trust maintained a safe environment for its patients and was able to keep its theatres and outpatients clinics operational throughout the incident," it stated. "No urgent operations were cancelled, although a very small number of other operations were postponed and immediately rescheduled." ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
China is ALREADY spying on Apple iCloud users, claims watchdog
Attack harvests users' info at iPhone 6 launch
Carders punch holes through Staples
Investigation launched into East Coast stores
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.