back to article Ambulance dispatch system hit by virus: reports

Australia’s ABC News is reporting that the dispatch system of the NSW Ambulance Service has been infected with a computer virus. As a result, according to the radio news report at midday on Sunday 13 February, emergency calls are being serviced by a manual system while staff work to clear the virus and return the ten-year-old …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Why is it so hard for anybody competent to get a job setting up an IT system.

  2. Anonymous Coward


    The general manager seems pretty much on top of things!

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Ten year old system?!?!?

    But.... surely no-one existed ten years ago. Except dinosaurs and peter stringfellow.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. JassMan

    If someone dies...

    hopefully they can track down the writer of the virus and charge them with manslaughter. It is a forseeable action that writing a virus which attacks a random system can result in death.

    If the merkins think that bypassing DRM is with 10years in prison + 1$M, then writing a virus which causes so much more loss and potential death should result in 50years + bankruptcy.

    But then, in the real world we all know that some movie moguls bonus is so much more import than the lives of ordinary people. ie Those who rely on public funded emergency services rather than have their own private helicopter to take them to hospital.

    1. Ubuntu Is a Better Slide Rule

      Sure ?

      The gobbermints have their fingers in this stinking jarpot:

      I could give you some more examples of gobbermints around the globe - from Germany to China.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Did anyone actually read the EULA ?

    This OS is not fit for mission critical systems.

  7. F111F


    will the white hats come up with a way to not only disable viruses, but track down and identify the black hats who perpetrate these things? Or, are they likely to be the same people, working both sides as they feel the urge?

  8. Ed Deckard

    The story doesn't specify

    But I think it's safe to assume the virus came via one of the usual vectors - infected email, etc.

    We need to learn keep mission-critical stuff that doesn't have to be on the 'net, off the 'net!

    1. Steve Evans

      Not quite that simple...

      Some of the viruses are so determined to spread on a LAN that they can saturate switches and effectively cut-off other systems which aren't even infected... Added to this the brute force log in attempts that they often try and you can quickly find that user accounts are disabled purely because a completely separate infected machine has attempted to brute force the log in and the domain controller has had a pink fit about it and locked down!

  9. Ian McNee

    Ambulances with Windscreens: yes

    Ambulances with Windows: NOOOOOO!!!!!!

  10. Anonymous Coward

    I wonder which one?

    If experience with UK govt departments and bodies is anything to go by, the NSW ambulance department's virus is probably something like conficker, for which there has been a security patch available for several year.

  11. A B 3
    Thumb Down


    Windows. I don't hate Windows, but when something like this happens you should switch.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ten year old system and now "hit by a virus"?

    Curious. Wonder why it slipped by now.

    On another note, kudos that they did manage to get back to a "manual" system and that it seems to work reasonably well. It shouldn't need kudos because fallback is a basic requirement for emergency and other critical services, but plenty outfits wouldn't be able to these days. I'll be looking forward to the detailed incident breakdown report.

    1. gsogeek

      Wonder if their backup is the same as ours?

      I know, at least here in the States, that manual system is a trusty Bic pen and a ream of paper forms. They even plan outages for maintenance to co-incide with the training of using those backups. Slower than the computerised system, and all the nice automatic decision-making stuff doesn't work, but it keeps those trucks going blinky blink down the road to where they're needed as long as you still have dispatchers that know the area and can make the decisions they need to make fairly quickly.

  13. Ben 50


    Now known as NSFW

  14. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    windows+virus => fish+barrel

    We can look forward to all of the usual comments here, including mine. They used to say "no one got fired for buying IBM" which was based on the generally high quality of the product, even if the cost was possibly too high.

    Maybe its time folk started to get fired for using the most infected operating system in history for safety-critical applications?

    And yes, I know that you *can* make Windows reasonably secure, and I have personally used it for years without infection, but that is because I am semi-knowledgeable, fairly paranoid, and probably lucky as well.

    But I also know that every Windows system I have seen with friends & family, irrespective of AV products used, has been compromised sooner or later by simple mistakes. There is just *so much* opportunity to infect a Windows box it beggars belief. Protecting against infections is really hard work, and clearly in this case they failed to do so.

  15. James O'Shea

    just great

    'So far as he knew'. Excellent. Just bloody excellent. Which bunch of incompetent yahoos allowed malware to roam loose on an _emergency dispatch system_?! Which bunch of incompetent yahoos take _more than a day_ to clean up after letting the malware run loose? Have these morons not taken elementary precautions to prevent infection, including but not limited to:

    * not letting the system connect directly to the Internet

    * locking down USB ports

    * locking down optical drives

    * having real, working, AV (assuming that they must use Windows)

    * not bloody using bloody Windows


    1. Ubuntu Is a Better Slide Rule

      Do you Really, Really Know boring an emergency ops center can be at 4:40 in the morning without Facebook ? Ya should thunk 'bout that person sitting next to the telephone !

  16. Spanners Silver badge

    "As far as he knew"

    If you have any virus on a network, it affects the ability to do what the network is there for.

    A network for that sort of organisation is there to help people run an abulance service things, or it should be removed as a waste of time effort and money.

    So either it had affected the ability to save lives or it needs removed anyway.

  17. anon01789

    The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    However, he said that emergency calls had not been delayed as far as he knew.--dose this mean that aledgeidly no one has died because of delay caused by the manual system?

    Shouldn't a system from only just this milenium be re evaluated for suitability?

  18. Goat Jam
    Thumb Down

    Oh Dear

    I hope no patients are adversely affected by this.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    And Nokia want to use windows on their handsets?

    Forget about Winders... I'll rather stick with Linux, thanks.

    Leaving the Windows pub because contagious diseases abound....

  20. Anonymous Coward

    No delays?

    If the manual system is operating without any delays, why do they even need the automated system in the first place? Surely the purpose of the infected system would be to make the process more efficient - this likely to include reduced response times since it's an ambulance dispatch system. If the infected system doesn't deliver reduced response times you may as well get rid of it (and perhaps save some money in the process).

    Also, why does everyone assume Windows is to blame? I can't see any mention of the OS in the brief article. I admit the likelihood of it being Windows is rather high (the mention of "Infected by a virus" in any article pretty much mandates that the target was Windows), but there still seems to be an awful lot of jumping-to-conclusions-from-no-available-evidence going on.

  21. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    *very* difficult to see why this system would *need* to talk to the internet.

    Now while the desktop PC it runs on *might* fall prey to viruses this suggests the system itself is being corrupted.

    Developing to internet standards good.

    Linking *to* internet bad.

    1. Alister

      talking to the internet...

      If the software uses real-time mapping for ambulance dispatch - so they know from GPS signals where the ambulances are in relation to the jobs, then the system pretty much has to talk to the internet, and probably uses one of the available APIs like Goggle or Bong to get the map data.

      Can't see them re-inventing the wheel by writing their own mapping stuff from scratch.

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