Categories: CyberCrimeSecurity

NHS Calls For Blood Donations After Ransomware Attack

The NHS has called for donations of O-type blood after a ransomware attack last week affected hospitals’ ability to match blood.

The attack affecting private pathology and diagnostic services provider Synnovis means hospitals cannot match patients’ blood with the same frequency as usual.

As a result, multiple London hospitals declared a critical incident, cancelled operations and tests and have been unable to carry out blood transfusions.

Russian criminal gang Qilin was behind the attack, former National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) chief Ciaran Martin said.

Blood donations

On Monday afternoon the NHS blood donation website implemented a queuing system, used to manage appointments at times of higher demand.

NHS Blood and Transplant called for donations of O positive and O negative blood donors to book appointments in one of the 25 NHS Blood Donor Centres in England.

O-type blood is known as the universal blood type and is safe to use for all patients.

It is used in emergencies or when a patient’s blood type is unknown.

Blood has a shelf life of 35 days, so stocks have to be continually replenished, the NHS said.

Only 8 percent of the population have O negative blood but it makes up about 15 percent of hospital orders.


O positive is the most common blood type, with 35 percent of donors having it, and can be given to anyone with a positive blood type, meaning about 76 percent of the population can benefit from such a donation.

NHS England medical director Prof Stephen Powis said staff were going “above and beyond to minimise the significant disruption to patients”.

“We know that a number of operations and appointments have been postponed or diverted to other neighbouring hospitals not impacted by the cyber-attack, as we prioritise pathology services for the most clinically urgent cases,” he said.

“We have availability for donors who know they are type O but we also welcome new donors who don’t yet know their blood type. You might have one of these special types that can be used in emergencies,” said Dr Gail Miflin, chief medical officer at NHS Blood and Tranplant.

Real-world impact

“If anyone needed proof that cyber attacks have real-world, physical consequences then this appeal from the NHS surely provides it,” said Ryan McConechy, chief technology officer of cybersecurity firm Barrier Networks.

He said the attack shows how organisations can be affected by an attack on the supply chain and the importance of security practices such as employee training, strong passwords and multi-factor authentication.

Ransomware is typically spread by malicious email attachments which often download further payloads from botnets.

Police in Europe and the US took down a number of botnets used to spread ransomware and other malware in a wide-ranging operation earlier this month called “Operation Endgame”.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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