Investigation of Russian hack on London hospitals may take weeks amid worries over online data dump

According to Saturday’s edition of the Guardian newspaper, records covering 300 million patient interactions, including the results of blood tests for HIV and cancer, were stolen during the attack. (AFP file photo for illustrative purposes)
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Updated 22 June 2024
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Investigation of Russian hack on London hospitals may take weeks amid worries over online data dump

  • Hundreds of operations and appointments are still being canceled more than two weeks after the June 3 attack on NHS provider Synnovis, which provides pathology services primarily in southeast London

LONDON: An investigation into a ransomware attack earlier this month on London hospitals by the Russian group Qilin could take weeks to complete, the country’s state-run National Health Service said Friday, as concerns grow over a reported data dump of patient records.
Hundreds of operations and appointments are still being canceled more than two weeks after the June 3 attack on NHS provider Synnovis, which provides pathology services primarily in southeast London.
The attack affected King’s College and Guy’s and St. Thomas’ hospital trusts, which run several south London hospitals, as well as clinics and doctors’ practices across a swath of the city. A memo to staff called it a “critical incident” and said it had a “major impact” on services, particularly blood transfusions.
NHS England said Friday that it has been “made aware” that data connected to the attack have been published online. According to the BBC, Qilin shared almost 400GB of data, including patient names, dates of birth and descriptions of blood tests, on their darknet site and Telegram channel.
“The National Crime Agency and National Cyber Security Center are working to verify the data included in the published files as quickly as possible,” NHS England said in a statement. “These files are not simple uploads and so investigations of this nature are highly complex and can take weeks if not longer to complete.”
According to Saturday’s edition of the Guardian newspaper, records covering 300 million patient interactions, including the results of blood tests for HIV and cancer, were stolen during the attack.
A website and helpline has been set up for patients affected.
“We understand the distress this will cause patients who have to re-test,” NHS England said.
The National Crime Agency has confirmed that it is leading the criminal investigation but said it is unable to comment further.
Ransomware involves criminals paralyzing computer systems with malware, then demanding money to release them. Ransomware is the costliest and most disruptive form of cybercrime, affecting local governments, court systems, hospitals and schools as well as businesses. It is difficult to combat as most gangs are based in former Soviet states and out of reach of Western justice.
Britain’s state-funded health system has been hit before, including during a 2017 ransomware attack that froze computers at hospitals across the country, closing down wards, shutting emergency rooms and bringing treatment to a halt.
Qilin, also known as Agenda, advertises on dark web cybercrime forums and leases malware to affiliates who use it to conduct attacks for a percentage of ransom payments, said Louise Ferrett of Searchlight Cyber, a threat intelligence company. The group has listed more than 100 victims.


Israel’s national anthem loudly jeered before Olympic soccer match against Mali

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Israel’s national anthem loudly jeered before Olympic soccer match against Mali

  • The game began with a massive security presence outside the stadium amid an increasingly strained international climate that has Paris’ safety efforts squarely in the spotlight

PARIS: Israel’s national anthem was loudly jeered before its soccer team kicked off play at the Paris Olympics against Mali on Wednesday night.
The game began with a massive security presence outside the stadium amid an increasingly strained international climate that has Paris’ safety efforts squarely in the spotlight.
The Israel team arrived under a heavy police escort, with motorbike riders at the front and about a dozen riot police vans following behind. Armed police officers patrolled the Parc des Princes stadium, one with a rifle resting on his shoulder. France’s Interior Minister, Gérald Darmanin, and Paris police chief Laurent Nunez arrived at the stadium at about 7:30 p.m.
“We owe this security to the whole world,” Darmanin said. “The threats to our country are the threats that concern the western world.”
The atmosphere outside the venue was calm, however. Fans from both countries mingled, holding up flags and posing for photos.
Mali fans sang proudly when their anthem was played first. When it came to Israel’s anthem, boos and whistles immediately rang out. The stadium speaker system playing the anthems then got notably louder in what seemed like an effort to drown out the jeers.
Once play began, Israeli players were booed each time they touched the ball. Security officials intervened in what appeared to be a heated argument between some fans. The commotion occurred near where one woman was holding a Palestinian flag. Two other people holding Palestine flags then stood next to the woman.
The game finished 1-1, with Israel taking the lead after an own goal from defender Hamidou Diallo in the 57th minute. Mali equalized a few minutes later on Cheickna Doumbia’s powerful header, drawing wild celebrations from the large contingent of Mali fans.
France is under pressure to make the July 26-Aug. 11 Paris Games safe. The city has repeatedly suffered deadly extremist attacks and tensions are high because of the wars in Ukraine and Gaza.
Security has been ramped up to extreme levels for Friday’s grandiose opening ceremony on the Seine River. Squadrons of police have been patrolling Paris’ streets, fighter jets and soldiers are primed to scramble and metal-fence security barriers have been erected on both sides of the river.
Darmanin previously said Israeli athletes would be protected 24 hours a day by elite police unit GIGN, which is in charge of counterterrorism and the protection of government officials, among other things.
“Police forces will have no vacation this summer in order to guarantee everyone’s safety and in particular, delegations deemed sensitive such as the Israeli delegation for which we have reinforced security thanks to our elite units,” National Police spokesperson Sonia Fibleuil said earlier Wednesday. “All the matches deemed sensitive will see heightened security with special forces and elite units but also a wider security apparatus with special resources.”
Paris is deploying 35,000 police officers each day for the Olympics with a peak of 45,000 for the opening ceremony. In addition, 10,000 soldiers are taking part in security operations in the Paris region. France also is getting help from more than 40 countries that together have sent at least 1,900 police reinforcements.
Mali broke off diplomatic relations with Israel and is against the current Israeli military operation in Gaza. In recent years, Israel renewed diplomatic ties with several Muslim countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Mali’s neighbor Guinea, Chad and Sudan.
Other matches involving Israel have led to security issues.
In May, the start of the women’s European Championship qualifier between Scotland and Israel in Glasgow was delayed after a protester chained himself to a goalpost. It was played without spectators after a decision was made to refund ticket holders following intelligence over planned disruptions in protest at Israel’s offensive in Gaza.
Last month, the city of Brussels said it won’t host a UEFA Nations League match between Belgium and Israel in September because of the “dramatic situation in Gaza” that creates a security headache for city officials.


Trump attack gunman searched online about JFK shooting: FBI chief

Updated 6 min 35 sec ago
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Trump attack gunman searched online about JFK shooting: FBI chief

WASHINGTON: The gunman who attempted to assassinate Donald Trump at a campaign rally searched online for details about the November 1963 shooting of US president John F. Kennedy in the days before the attack, the FBI director said Wednesday.

FBI chief Christopher Wray, testifying before a congressional committee, said the gunman flew a drone over the venue where the former president was scheduled to speak about two hours before he took the stage in Butler, Pennsylvania, on July 13.

Wray told members of the House Judiciary Committee that investigators have not established a motive for the shooting but “we are digging hard because this is one of the central questions for us.”

Trump survived the assassination bid, suffering a wound to his right ear, and a Secret Service sniper shot dead the suspected gunman — named as 20-year-old Thomas Matthew Crooks — less than 30 seconds after he had fired eight shots.

“With respect to former president Trump, there’s some question about whether or not it’s a bullet or shrapnel that, you know, that hit his ear,” FBI chief Wray said.

Two rally attendees were seriously injured and a 50-year-old Pennsylvania firefighter was shot dead.

Wray said Crooks “appears to have done a lot of searches of public figures, in general” but that there was no clear pattern to the research.

“A lot of the usual repositories of information have not yielded anything notable in terms of motive or ideology,” he said.

“Starting somewhere around July 6 or so, he became very focused on former president Trump and this rally,” the FBI chief said, and he registered that same day to attend the campaign event in Butler, Pennsylvania.

“On July 6, he did a Google search for, quote, ‘How far away was Oswald from Kennedy?’” he said, a reference to Kennedy’s assassination by Lee Harvey Oswald.

“That obviously is significant in terms of his state of mind.”

The FBI director said no evidence has emerged so far that Crooks had any accomplices or co-conspirators and he seems to have been a “loner.”

Crooks was perched on the roof of a nearby building and opened fire on Trump with an AR-style assault rifle shortly after 6:00 pm, as the Republican White House candidate was addressing the rally in Butler.

US Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle resigned on Tuesday, a day after acknowledging the agency had failed in its mission to prevent the assassination attempt.

Wray said Crooks flew a drone over the rally area for around 11 minutes — sometime between 3:50 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. — on the day of the attack.

He said it was not flown directly over the stage but about 200 yards (meters) away.

The drone and its controller were recovered in the gunman’s car along with two “relatively crude” explosive devices, Wray said.

Another explosive device was found in Crooks’s residence.

Wray said the gunman purchased a ladder on the day of the shooting but appears not to have used it. Instead, he climbed onto the roof using some mechanical equipment on the ground and vertical piping.

Wray also said Crooks’s AR-style gun had a collapsible stock which may explain why he was not seen by rally-goers or members of law enforcement with the weapon before the shooting.

He said Crooks visited the rally site on at least three occasions: about a week before the shooting, for about 70 minutes on the morning of the rally and again that afternoon.

He purchased 50 rounds of ammunition on the day of the attack and visited a shooting range the previous day.


Child killed in Colombia’s first lethal drone attack

Updated 13 min 17 sec ago
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Child killed in Colombia’s first lethal drone attack

BOGOTA: A ten-year-old boy died Wednesday in a drone attack targeting soldiers in Colombia, the first death of its kind in the country which has struggled to rein in guerrilla violence.

The defense ministry’s press office said it was the first drone death in Colombia and blamed the attack on a group of dissident guerrillas who broke away from the FARC armed group when it signed a peace deal with the government years ago.

“Young Dylan, age 10, was killed following the launching of grenades by drones targeting” soldiers in the restive southwest department of Cauca, the regional military commander, General Federico Mejia, said in a video on the social network X.

The grenade fell on a soccer field in the town of El Plateado, a stronghold of the Central General Staff (EMC) rebel group which broke away from FARC.

The explosion also left six wounded, according to the Army.

Colombia’s leftist guerrillas are increasingly relying on drones to drop explosives on rivals.

Unlike the sophisticated payloads mounted on drones by soldiers in Ukraine, for example, the guerrillas mainly use commercially available drones to drop homemade explosives or fireworks.

In June, the army reported having recorded 17 drone attacks in six weeks, without any deaths, a new turn in Colombia’s six decades of internal armed conflict.

Defense Minister Ivan Velasquez expressed solidarity with the boy’s family on X, saying he was killed “during a terrorist attack carried out by the Carlos Patino Front.”

That group, which is involved in drug trafficking, is a hard-line faction of the EMC.

“We are reinforcing the military offensive to protect the population and capture those responsible for the attack,” added Velasquez.

The army said on X it had deployed “more than 800 soldiers” in the Cauca department, with a “clear and forceful” mission: to capture and neutralize the rebel leaders.”

A leader of the Carlos Patino Front denied responsibility when contacted by AFP and blamed the army for the attack.

“The community of El Plateado knows the truth,” said Kevin Arcos, a commander with the group.

The Micay Canyon, where El Plateado is located, is a mountainous region blanketed by bright green coca plantations — the main ingredient of cocaine.

The regional military commander Mejia said rebels were waging an offensive in El Plateado in retaliation for military operations against the guerrillas “who are at the top of these mountains trying to generate control of illicit economies.”


Brazil’s Lula seeks to bolster support for global alliance against hunger

Updated 19 min 51 sec ago
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Brazil’s Lula seeks to bolster support for global alliance against hunger

  • Hunger is something that requires a political decision,” Lula said during a ministerial meeting to establish the global alliance

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva unveiled a global alliance against hunger and poverty in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday, an initiative he described as one of Brazil’s top priorities for its current presidency of the Group of 20 nations.
“Hunger is not something natural. Hunger is something that requires a political decision,” Lula said during a ministerial meeting to establish the global alliance. The leftist leader slammed the perpetuation of hunger across the world despite sufficient production.
Lula was seeking to bolster support ahead of the formal establishment of the alliance later this year, when world leaders will gather in Rio de Janeiro for the Nov. 18-19 summit of the leading 20 rich and developing nations.
The alliance aims to implement a mechanism to mobilize funds and knowledge to support the expansion of policies and programs to combat inequality and poverty, according to a statement from Brazil’s G20 press office on Tuesday. It will be managed from a secretariat located at the Food and Agriculture Organization headquarters in Rome and Brasilia until 2030, with half of its costs covered by Brazil, Lula said in his speech.
A former trade unionist who governed between 2003 and 2010, Lula returned to the presidency for a third, non-consecutive term in 2023 after thwarting the reelection bid of former president Jair Bolsonaro.
Lula, who was born to a poor family in Brazil’s northeastern Pernambuco state, has long sought to tackle hunger both at home and abroad.
Food security issues and poverty are present across Brazil, from the Amazon to large urban centers, which means the country can bring expertise to the global discussion, said Marcelo Cândido da Silva, a history professor at the University of Sao Paulo and vice-coordinator of an international research project against hunger.
Brazil is also one of the world’s top exporters of food, sending abroad large quantities of corn, soja, coffee, sugar, beef and chicken.
Ending extreme poverty and hunger by 2030 are part of the UN’s sustainable development goals, adopted in 2015, but progress has been lagging.
Around 733 million people faced hunger in 2023, equivalent to one in eleven people globally and one in five in Africa, according to the annual State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report, released in Rio on Wednesday.
There was a sharp upturn in people facing moderate or severe food insecurity in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and since then numbers have remained stubbornly high despite progress in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to a statement accompanying the launch of the report.
“A future free from hunger is possible if we can rally the resources and the political will needed to invest in proven long-term solutions,” said World Food Programme Executive Director Cindy McCain in the statement.
As well as spotlighting hunger and poverty, Brazilian diplomats are using the presidency of the G20 to push for the reform of global governance institutions and advocate for a sustainable energy transition.
Those efforts are part of Lula’s bid to pitch his nation – and himself — as leader for the Global South.
The alliance against hunger and poverty “allows Brazil to position itself as a leader because it is bringing an issue dear to the world’s poorest countries to a forum where they are not represented, the G20,” said Eduardo Mello, a professor of international relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation think tank and university.
But there is a lack of political will because of ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip, Mello said.


Gaza ceasefire deal in ‘closing stages’: US official

Updated 20 min 28 sec ago
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Gaza ceasefire deal in ‘closing stages’: US official

  • The official played down a fiery speech to Congress by Netanyahu in which he pledged ‘total victory’
  • He added that the talks with Biden Thursday would be more focused on the mechanics of a deal

WASHINGTON: Negotiations for a Gaza ceasefire and hostage release deal are in their “closing stages,” a US official said Wednesday, ahead of talks between US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Biden will try to close some “final gaps” in his talks with Netanyahu at the White House on Thursday but key elements including the fate of the hostages remain in Hamas’s court, the senior administration official said.

“We believe it’s in the closing stages and a deal is closeable,” the US official said on condition of anonymity in a call previewing Netanyahu’s visit.

There would be a “lot of activity in the coming week” toward reaching a long-sought deal, said the official, adding that an agreement was “not only possible, it’s essential and necessary.”

The US official played down a fiery speech to Congress by Netanyahu on Wednesday in which he pledged “total victory,” saying that the talks with Biden would be more focused on the mechanics of a deal.

A possible truce now hinges on a handful of issues about how a deal would come into effect, with Hamas having eased its demand for a full Israeli pull-out, the official said.

“I don’t expect the meeting (with Netanyahu) to be a yes or no, it’s a kind of like ‘how do we close these final gaps?’ And there are some things we need from the Israeli side, no question,” the official said.

“But there’s also some key things that are only in the hands of Hamas because the hostages are in the hands of Hamas.”

A Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 resulted in the deaths of 1,197 people in Israel, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Out of 251 people taken hostage that day, 114 are still being held inside the Gaza Strip, including 42 who the military says are dead.

More than 39,100 Palestinians, also mostly civilians, have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the war broke out, according to data provided by the health ministry of Hamas-run Gaza.