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London hospital recovers from Conficker outbreak

Whipps Cross worm-whipped

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An east London hospital has confirmed its computer systems were infected by the Conficker worm earlier this month.

Whipps Cross University Hospital NHS Trust stressed that the outbreak affected only administrative systems, causing minor inconvenience, and did not affect patient care. Systems have since been restored to normal.

Around one in 20 computers were affected by the outbreak, the Leytonstone-located NHS hospital explained in a statement.

Whipps Cross University Hospital NHS Trust can confirm that on August 5 the conficker worm virus entered our IT system on site.

As a result about five per cent of the Trust's PCs (30 machines) were affected and were out of action for a number of days.

The virus, which was quickly isolated, did not affect the delivery of patient care and all systems are now operating normally.

The incident is a reminder that the Conficker mega-worm, whose 1 April "activation date" was much hyped by the mainstream press, remains active. Although the botnet the worm established has not been used to launch either denial of service attacks or spam runs it remains a huge threat, with hundreds of thousands of machines infected by the worm.

Local paper The Epping Forest Guardian first reported the infection last Friday. More details emerged over the weekend, including the revelation that the outbreak was down to Conficker.

Virus infections at NHS hospitals are rare but hardly unprecedented. Last November PCs at the three hospitals that form the Barts and the London NHS Trust were forced offline following infection by the MyTob worm. The malware outbreak forced the hospitals to briefly reroute ambulances and disrupted hospital administration while the infection was being contained. A subsequent report criticised the Trust's IT security.

Other incidents include the infection of PCs at a Sheffield hospital with the Conficker worm in January 2009, soon after the first appearance of the worm. More than 800 computers at the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Trust were infected by Conficker. ®

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