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UK hospitals at risk of chilling sleeper cell attack by Russia

There is still a possibility that Russian cybercriminals would carry out their scary "sleeper cell" scheme against British hospitals.

Dr. Melanie Garson stated, in an interview conducted exclusively for, that the government as well as private enterprises have significantly increased the strength of their cyber defenses. However, there is still a remote chance that UK computer systems are vulnerable in the manner of a "sleeper cell." University College London has appointed Dr. Garson to the position of lecturer in conflict resolution and international security. His area of expertise is cyberattacks (UCL).

She stated that there are significant concerns over the effects of a cyber assault and that these concerns stem from the possibility that a cyber attack may target electricity infrastructure or hospitals.

Following comments made by the pro-Russian hacking group Killnet, which threatened to attack NHS ventilators in response to the arrest of an alleged pro-Russian cybercriminal in London earlier this month, attacks on hospitals in the United Kingdom are of particular concern. This comes as a result of comments made by Killnet.

A warning about the attack was sent on the messaging platform Telegram by an account that is apparently connected to Killnet.

The message said, "I will destroy your whole information system, including your Ministry of Health."

"Every single ventilator will come under fire."

The National Health Service (NHS) was hit by a devastating worldwide ransomware outbreak in 2017, and as a result, hospital cyber defenses have been enhanced.

According to Dr. Garson, the most plausible scenario for a cyber strike on the United Kingdom is a piece of dormant code similar to a "sleeper cell" that might already be present in the system.

Vladimir Putin and several images portraying the NHS are involved in the cyber assault.

The National Health Service (NHS) has been the target of cyberattacks in the past and is now working to bolster its defenses. (Image: GETTY)

Putin Ambulances in front of an emergency room represent a cyber assault.

The National Health Service (NHS) has historically been subjected to severe disruptions caused by cyberattacks. (Image: GETTY)

She stated that "the biggest worries are these sorts of shutdowns on key infrastructure systems," notably with the electricity grid or perhaps on hospitals. She also mentioned that "the biggest fears are these sorts of shutdowns on critical infrastructure systems."

Dr. Garson continued by saying, "The most important aspect of any kind of cyber attack, and this is where offensive use can be a little bit unpredictable, is that it relies on, typically, sitting in the system - kind of dormant, a bit like a sleeper cell for quite a long time. This is where offensive use can be a little bit unpredictable."

"It's not like there's a huge red button that you can hit, and then everything just kind of occurs. In many cases, it is dependent upon already being present in the system, after which it is dependent upon remaining unknown and unpatched for any type of regular reason while a typical patching exercise is being performed.

"The hidden vulnerability is there, kind of nearly ready to trigger when you need it," said the researcher. "When you need it."

On the other hand, according to Dr. Garson, the United Kingdom, the United States, and other Western nations have been working feverishly to upgrade their cyber defenses in order to make them as "top-notch as possible."

A memory stick and an image of code were used in the cyberattack launched by Putin.

Even something as seemingly innocuous as a memory stick is capable of making a system vulnerable to attack. (Image: GETTY) Vladimir Putin

It is not always easy to determine whether or not a state actor was behind an assault on a computer network. (Image: GETTY)

Private firms like as Microsoft and Google were among those that discovered vulnerabilities on a daily basis and patched, or fixed, them.

Dr. Garson said that even with these better defenses, it is feasible, however rare, that a large-scale cyber assault might circumvent Western defenses. He said this despite the fact that it is highly unlikely this would happen.

She stated that there is always the risk that something unknown is present or that there is anything that is unpatched someplace.

"Within the critical infrastructure system, there has been a major drive to ensure that everyone is taking responsibility and truly buckling down,"

According to Dr. Garson, vulnerabilities may be introduced into the system by anything as low-tech as a USB memory stick or accounting software.

She explained the situation as follows: "Literally someone walks into work with a memory stick from someplace and puts it in, and it can get into the system."

Text on a screen indicating a ransomware assault depicting a cyber attack on Vladimir Putin.

Ransomware is malicious software that prevents users from accessing their own devices and, in exchange for restoring access to their contents, frequently demands payment. (Image: GETTY)

Following the cancellation of 19,000 appointments in 2017, a worldwide cyber assault including the WannaCry ransomware resulted in a cost of £92 million for the NHS.

According to reports, the hack compromised 70,000 items used by the NHS, including computers, MRI scanners, refrigerators used for blood storage, and operational equipment.

In more recent times, a ransomware assault in the United States caused a critical energy pipeline to be shut down for a period of six days, which resulted in a panicky rush on gasoline stations.

A piece of software known as ransomware is malicious software that locks a device or computer and will not open it unless the user satisfies specific demands, most of which involve payment of a ransom.

Even while Russia has not been implicated in any of these cyberattacks, it is generally believed that the Kremlin is behind a number of hacking organizations as well as a large misinformation mill that has specifically targeted the Western world through social media.


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