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Scottish hospitals laid low by malware infection

Worm causes appointment bother

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Appointments for cancer patients had to be rescheduled after a computer virus infected the networking systems at two Scottish hospitals last week.

The infection of laboratory PCs at the Stobhill and Gartnavel General hospitals meant the bookings of 12 patients attending the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Care Centre in Glasgow were postponed, The Glasgow Herald reports. Systems were taken offline for two days to allow computer technicians to clean up the mess.

The Herald compares the outbreak to the infection of systems at three London hospitals by the MyTob worm four months ago. The malware outbreak at St Bartholomew's, the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel and The London Chest Hospital meant ambulances had to be briefly sent to other hospitals and meant that some appointments had to be rescheduled. In a small number of cases, medical staff had to fall back onto pen and paper backup systems. An independent review concluded the outbreak was "entirely avoidable".

A staff member's description of the worm infecting the Glasgow hospitals is in line with an outbreak of the infamous Conficker worm, which recently infected computer systems at a Sheffield hospital. A spokeswoman for the NHS in Greater Glasgow told El Reg that the strain of malware involved in last week's attacks had yet to be identified but suggested that an answer might be forthcoming on Tuesday.

A senior Gartnavel staff member told The Herald: "They are calling it a worm and when they identify it it burrows deeper into the system and duplicates itself, and it is getting through some very strong firewalls."

Use of a backup system meant that although a small number of cancer patients had treatments postponed, their medical procedures would still be completed according to treatment plans. ®

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