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News Wrap: Cyberattack cripples institutions, companies around the world

May 12, 2017 at 6:45 PM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: A massive cyber-attack struck major institutions and companies in more than 70 countries. The computer systems were infected with so-called ransomware that demands money in exchange for unlocking data. The malware is believed to have exploited a cyber-hacking tool that was used by the National Security Agency that was broken into last year.

The United Kingdom was among the hardest-hit, forcing its National Health Service to close dozens of hospitals and medical centers.

Paul Davies of Independent Television News has this report.

PAUL DAVIES: It is a sinister development, the very people we turn to when we’re sick or injured, themselves under a concerted and highly sophisticated attack.

Hospitals and other NHS organizations only realizing something was wrong when someone appeared to take control of their vital computer systems, and then this message demanding immediate payment, with the threat that invaluable records will be deleted in a week if the money wasn’t paid.

The result is chaos. At the hospitals affected, treatment has been postponed and ambulances diverted. Not all hospitals have been targeted, but those that have are widespread.

When Emma Simpson took her son Seb for a check on his broken toe, they joined the thousands of patients inconvenienced.

WOMAN: They said, I’m really sorry, but the computer system is down. You are going to have to go away. We can’t have any appointments. It would be dangerous to do so because we can’t access any of the files.

PAUL DAVIES: But this local doctor described the impact.

DR. ROB BARNETT, General Practitioner: We have become isolated. We have got no access to the records. We have got no access to electronic prescriptions. We have got no access to investigations on patients.

PAUL DAVIES: Latest information suggests as many as 40 health trusts may now be affected. The message to patients is hardly reassuring.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Two top security firms said most of the infected computers were in Russia. The Russian Interior Ministry reported that roughly 1,000 of its devices were affected. It’s still not clear who or what is behind the cyber-attack.

The U.S. Justice Department has issued a directive to federal prosecutors to seek tougher sentences for the vast majority of criminal suspects. The move is a direct reversal of the policy that was put in place under former President Obama, which sought to reduce prison overcrowding.

We will have more on the impact of the new sentencing directive a little later in the program.

The Trump administration has unveiled its new trade deal with China. As part of the agreement, Beijing will lift a 13-year-old ban on U.S. beef imports. It will also allow U.S. shipments of liquefied natural gas and open the Chinese market to U.S. credit card companies. Chinese banks in turn will be permitted to enter the U.S. financial market, but an exact date has yet to be set.

U.S. immigration agents have arrested nearly 1,400 suspected gang members across the U.S. in a massive six-week operation. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said fewer than a third of those arrested were illegal aliens. About 1,100 people taken into custody are being held on criminal charges.

Last night, the agency’s acting director said the crackdown is far from over.

THOMAS HOMAN, Acting Director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement: Let me be clear that these violent criminal street gangs are the biggest threat facing our communities. Today, we speak about what we have done the past six weeks. Now, I want to make sure there’s no mistake. We are not done.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The crackdown is the largest anti-gang operation in the agency’s history.

North Korea’s parliament sent a rare letter to the U.S. Congress today protesting new sanctions that the House of Representatives passed earlier this month. They target the North’s shipping industry, and were in response to its nuclear program. North Korea called the measure a — quote — “heinous act against humanity,” and said — quote — “The U.S. House of Representatives should think twice.”

It wasn’t immediately clear how the letter was sent, since the U.S. and Pyongyang have no formal diplomatic relations.

Hepatitis C infections have now nearly tripled in the U.S. That’s according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers attribute the increase to the opioid epidemic and a spike in heroin use from the years 2010 to 2015. The highest rates of infections were among people in their 20s who inject drugs.

Fiat Chrysler is recalling more than a million Ram pickup trucks in the U.S. to fix a software glitch. The automaker said the error could prevent side air bags and seat belts from working during a vehicle rollover. The defect has been blamed for at least one death.

And stocks were mixed on Wall Street today after poor showings by department stores and Treasury yields. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 23 points to close at 20896. The Nasdaq rose five points, and the S&P 500 slipped three. For the week, both the Dow and the S&P 500 lost a fraction of a percent. The Nasdaq rose a fraction of a percent.

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