back to article Google mistakes the entire NHS for massive cyber-attacking botnet

Google is blocking access to the entire NHS network, mistaking the amount of traffic it is currently receiving as a cyber attack. An email from an NHS trust's IT department seen by The Register confirmed that the US search giant has mistaken the current traffic levels for a botnet. The email headed "Google Access" stated: " …

  1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    confirmed that Google is was the "go-to resource" for a lot of clinicians.

    I now have rather disturbing visions of patients lying on operating tables, surgeons poised over them with scalpel in hand, and laptop to one side while he Googles "how to perform open heart surgery"

    1. MrWibble

      Maybe that's their USP with Google Assistant - hands free access to surgery how-to guides.

    2. Andy The Hat Silver badge

      beat me to it. One wonders why a service sector industry such as the NHS would generate 'abnormal' quantities of traffic ... Unless it's the patients using google translate to understand the foreign staff?

      Sorry, bit harsh perhaps, but when I know good kids who are unable to get training as the number of places are so limited they can't get on courses and it's suggested they increase their chances by *paying* to volunteer if does hurt.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        beat me to it. One wonders why a service sector industry such as the NHS would generate 'abnormal' quantities of traffic ...

        Probably because most Internet traffic goes through the N3 network, therefore compressing the number of public IPs that are accessing Google's services down to a somewhat lower number than if each site had (relatively) direct access to the Internet.

        The N3 network diagram may help: http://n3.nhs.uk/technicalinformation/n3networkoverview.cfm. To summarise in their words: The Internet Gateway is the biggest and most important gateway. (...) It's the single aggregation and access point for all Internet-bound traffic from N3 users. (...)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          One wonders why a service sector industry such as the NHS would generate 'abnormal' quantities of traffic ...

          Probably because most Internet traffic goes through the N3 network, therefore compressing the number of public IPs that are accessing Google's services

          Sure, but that's been the case a long time. Something must have changed for it to suddenly start being a problem now.

          My guess is that Google have activated some new algorithm for detecting and auto-blocking an attack, and it's having an unintended consequence.

          So... kinda like a Trump executive order, then. ;-)

          1. Sir Sham Cad

            Re: Something must have changed

            Nope. It's been going on for years. It's only been reported on now, probably because it's taken this long for someone to decide it's worth moaning about.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            This isn't new news, it's been happening for the last couple of years, usually just after lunch time when I really need to get on with finding the solution to a coding problem that I was putting off before lunch.

            Of course I could probably just search on StackOverflow but I can't remember their URL so just Google that...

            Although I don't think it's happened since we moved from N3 to SWAN.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Nailed it Nick, also people seem to forget the NHS is not just clinicians. There's also the Scottish Wide Area network which includes local authorities - they all come out of a handful of exit points and reduce the number of IPs google sees as a source.

          No doubt some will continue to see this as a time to bash the NHS, heaven forbid people try to find out where houses are on a map for home visits etc.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        re: Unless it's the patients using google translate to understand the foreign staff?

        I've been under the doctor for both a hiatus hernia and a hole between my sinuses and mouth. I've been to Southmead Hospital and the Bristol Dental Hospital. I've not heard a single employee who didn't speak English with an English accent. Where have you been where you can't understand the staff?

        1. Rob Daglish

          Re: re: Unless it's the patients using google translate to understand the foreign staff?

          Try West Cumbria, AC. We've a great mix of nationalities, skin tones, accents and languages, all with varying levels of English speaking skills. We had a situation last week where my wife took the little one for a checkup as she has a cough, and due to a language mix up, thought the (German) Doctor was giving her antibiotics to placate her, so never bothered filling the prescription. This week, the little one is still unwell, so she went back and saw a different (also foreign, but from Oz) Doctor explained that my 3 month old daughter has a chest infection and needs antibiotics ASAP...

          In fact, in my own GP practice, we've got 1 x Australian, 1 x German, 1 x South African, a lovely locum from the Ukraine (who most people will quite happily wait for!) and a blooming Scot!

          Personally, I think if they want to come here and look after us, so much the better for us, but given some strong regional accents, it can get confusing at times - I have known people who've had to translate between Glaswegian and Cockney before now!

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: re: Unless it's the patients using google translate to understand the foreign staff?

            "I have known people who've had to translate between Glaswegian and Cockney"

            Where did you find such a polyglot?

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: re: Unless it's the patients using google translate to understand the foreign staff?

              Do I really have to post a link to this video again?

              1. Wilseus

                Re: re: Unless it's the patients using google translate to understand the foreign staff?

                Or this one.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: re: Unless it's the patients using google translate to understand the foreign staff?

              "I have known people who've had to translate between Glaswegian and Cockney"

              Where did you find such a polyglot?

              Was it Google Translate?

          2. Jan 0

            Re: re: Unless it's the patients using google translate to understand the foreign staff?

            Rob in W Cumbria wrote:

            > I have known people who've had to translate between Glaswegian and Cockney before now!

            Ah, mystery solved? After living in the East End of London for nearly four decades, I've often wondered where all the Cockneys went. I haven't heard any Cockney, or Yiddish for that matter, in the last 20 years. Round here it's all either Estuary, Public School, Nth language or completely not English. I thought some Cockneys might have migrated to Spain, but West Cumbria is interesting. Do Cockneys, like the Dutch, long to see mountains?

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: re: Unless it's the patients using google translate to understand the foreign staff?

            thought the (German) Doctor was giving her antibiotics to placate her...

            So, you went to the doctor, were prescribed antibiotics (which they won't do unless absolutely necessary) and decided to ignore their advice... ?

            1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

              Re: re: Unless it's the patients using google translate to understand the foreign staff?

              thought the (German) Doctor was giving her antibiotics to placate her...

              So, you went to the doctor, were prescribed antibiotics (which they won't do unless absolutely necessary) and decided to ignore their advice... ?

              Exactly my thinking. That's not an issue of the Doctor being foreign, that's an issue of the Doctor's advice being ignored. Could just as easily have happened with a born-and-bred English doctor speaking the Queen's.

              It's possible there was a communication problem, in that the Doctor didn't make it clear why the anti-biotics were being prescribed, but again, that can just as easily happen with a british doctor.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: re: Unless it's the patients using google translate to understand the foreign staff?

                In short, a stupid attitude to a foreign doctor by a stupid woman, I would advice the husband to take his kid to the doctor himself next time, then again.

                I am aware and I have felt uncertainty with foreign doctors at home and abroad, but with a sic kid like that is beyond me

          4. Cashpot

            Re: re: Unless it's the patients using google translate to understand the foreign staff?

            Sorry to ask, but why not go to your GP instead of using an ACCIDENT and EMERGENCY service? Don't say no appointments all doctors will see a sick child same day.

        2. Andy The Hat Silver badge

          Re: re: Unless it's the patients using google translate to understand the foreign staff?

          ... try Norfolk. Pick a hospital, any hospital.

          I'm not being critical of their work (they're generally really good) but both patients and staff must be able to clearly understand each other where mistakes and potential death is involved.

        3. Keef

          Re: re: Unless it's the patients using google translate to understand the foreign staff?

          Try London.

          Ealing in my case.

          Most staff are foreign and I struggle with their accents.

          That's where I've been because that's where I live.

          But despite the difficulty with accents I'm happy because without immigrants filling the posts we would have no NHS.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @andy the asshat

        Maybe the good kids you know just aren't that bright?

        Access to training is based on merit, not nationality.

        1. MOV r0,r0

          Simplistic bordering on naive. For years professional bodies such as the BMA, the Royal College of GPs have restricted the numbers entering training citing 'standards' with the happy by-product that scarcity maintains high remuneration. NHS managers respond by recruiting from overseas where ironically some medical qualifications are of low standard.

          None of this benefits patients but the phrase 'Our NHS' was never truer than when issued from the mouths of staff and it doesn't surprise me that Google's traffic algorithms can't quite believe how overstaffed the NHS is.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            That is quite simply untrue. Neither the BMA or the RCGP have any control over training numbers. These are set by the government. Both organisations have called for an increase in training places. In the case of GP training there is the additional problem that we cannot even fill the current places.

        2. Andy The Hat Silver badge

          Please don't call me a donkey.

          When did you last look into UK medical training? Perhaps you should.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "Please don't call me a donkey." - I assure you, I wasn't.

            "When did you last look into UK medical training? Perhaps you should"

            Personally I have never looked into it, but the last three generations of our family has at least one trained nurse... we have friends who are Nurses (Not aux - properly trained nurses), GPs and a few Radiographers for good measure.

            I'm willing to accept that there may be more competition for the training now - but that goes back to my original statement - maybe the people you know just aren't quite as good as the other people applying (This is not a slight against them, if a significant number of people apply and the bar is sufficiently high even good, intelligent people will not be good enough)

      4. Sir Sham Cad

        Re: "generate 'abnormal' quantities of traffic"

        This has been going on for years, I have users contact our service desk about this on a regular basis. The traffic isn't abnormal in itself it's being deemed "abnormal" for the number of IP addresses the traffic is coming from.

        This is because the entire NHS directs traffic to the Internet via the private N3 network which has a few Internet Gateways that translate N3 routed traffic to Internet routed traffic therefore there's a funnel effect whereby shitloads of private N3 IP address users accessing Google and the Internet as a whole, and the shitloads of traffic which is generated by the moderate traffic from each, hit the N3-facing side of the handful of gateways which send a shitload of traffic to Google and therefore get mistaken for bots.

        The impact on the user is, essentially, fill in a CAPTCHA to prove you're actually human. Then Google leaves you in peace to get on with it.

        1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

          Re: "generate 'abnormal' quantities of traffic"

          "The impact on the user is, essentially, fill in a CAPTCHA to prove you're actually human. Then Google leaves you in peace to get on with it."

          No, it does the search and then when you change it slightly, or horror want to see page 2 throws another captcha at you. Sems to happen continually if you use any of the search parameters (filetype, inurl, etc.)

    3. LDS Silver badge

      From "bloodoverflow.com"

      Step 1: .....

    4. 0laf Silver badge

      Knowing some of them that might be a good ting

    5. Simon Harris Silver badge

      'while he Googles "how to perform open heart surgery"'

      More probably using Google Scholar to keep up with current research and review published case descriptions.

    6. MR J

      Probably more like users using a search string with lots of variables.

      You can google "Cat Yawning" all day long and never trigger anything.

      Search a specific site or database for five or six specific strings and Google will soon flag you.

      As for them asking how to do OHS, I wouldn't put it past some of the doctors.

      I know a doctor who used 5 clips on 2 aneurisms, he has no idea why the extras were used, he has a video of it and cant figure it out. After he had a few more mysterious brain surgeries he decided to become a spinal surgeon. After seeing some issues with that he now writes prescriptions for pain meds instead - and so far all of his clients, err patients are happy.

    7. Joseph Haig

      ... while he Googles "how to perform open heart surgery"

      It could be worse. It might be that he is being talked through it by a 12-year-old on Slack.

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Hasbro/M&B's Game of Operation

      Even I forget the board layout of the game Operation, every so often. For reference purposes, of course.

    9. hatti

      Is that the same surgeon who hit reply all to that email.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @hatti

        It wasn't surgeons who hit "reply all". Many of those who did were managers and administrators.

    10. Sam Haine

      "how to perform open heart surgery"

      Carefully.

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

        Re: "how to perform open heart surgery"

        Well, there's practically nothing you can't do as long as you've got a Swiss army knife, a roll of duct tape, a handfull of cable ties and a can of WD-40.

        1. Simon Harris Silver badge

          Re: "how to perform open heart surgery"

          Don't forget the superglue

          1. tr1ck5t3r

            Re: "how to perform open heart surgery"

            Surprised the NHS are helping to train Google Health.

            https://googleblog.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/health-info-knowledge-graph.html

            Now I know how Google knows when the UK suffers pandemics, or local out breaks of something, whilst helping to train Google's Health AI's which will be a future venture based on their current partners.

            Do taxpayers mind the NHS helping to train Google's AI's and getting awarded contracts for eye scans?

            Its getting to the stage Google is taking with the left hand using searchs from the NHS as well as the right with Deep Mind contracts.

    11. David 132 Silver badge
      Happy

      I now have rather disturbing visions of patients lying on operating tables, surgeons poised over them with scalpel in hand, and laptop to one side while he Googles "how to perform open heart surgery"

      And obstetricians googling "how is babby formed"?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well as an NHS employee (non-clinical) I access Google regularly for finding information rather than having to leaf through reams of printed information to find specific stuff.

    Also huge numbers of enquiries at set times of day as staff access Google at lunchtime etc. for personal use.

  3. James12345

    Google Captcha

    We get this from time to time, despite being a Google Apps customer and we are much smaller that the NHS. I would be surprised if this doesn't happen to lots of organisations all the time, especially those who send lots of traffic to Google.

    1. Alan J. Wylie Silver badge

      Re: Google Captcha

      I was prompted by an "I am not a robot" page this morning. I haven't seen one of those at work for ages. Perhaps Google has tweaked some of their detection settings?

      1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

        Re: Google Captcha

        > Perhaps Google has tweaked some of their detection settings?

        No idea if it's related, but in the last few weeks they seem to have truly fucked up their false detection rate on Gmails/Apps for Domains spam filters. I've had no end of hassles from email going missing, in both directions, and have had a few that they wouldn't even let me send in the first place.

    2. Daggerchild Silver badge

      Re: Google Captcha

      Yup, I've had them too. Last time I investigated, it was someone who had installed a browser extension that had lost its marbles and was loop-bombing google search through a common proxy.

      But that was in the days before HTTPS-only, so you could actually see repetitive insanity in the proxy logs. Those days are pretty much gone now.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Google Captcha

        Maybe it's punishment for someone behind the IP running Ad Nauseam.

    3. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge
  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I would not be surprised is there is some issue inside the NHS network...

    .... once a disgruntled employee of ours started to spam through gmail accounts from the office PC (knowing the situation I tried to lock down his PC - being a developer he had broad privileges -, but I was overridden by an upper manager for fear of HR issues...) , and then our egress IPs were blacklisted by Google...

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: I would not be surprised is there is some issue inside the NHS network...

      I offer in evidence this here Linksys WiFi router. Perhaps there are more than a few unpatched ones on the NHS network and they have been made part of a botnet?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As a former NHS minion…

    API calls have always struggled within the NHS. I remember seeing lots of static map calls a few years ago that, by mid-morning, would show a too many requests alternative image.

    In my time working for and with various NHS Trusts and CCGs I have never, ever seen a clinician, or an admin for that matter, ever use Bing to do anything other than search for Google. :) I think it's particularly funny that as a Bing engineer it must be soul destroying to constantly see your competition as the most searched for term on your own engine. :)

    Not really any news here as I've seen captchas now and again for years when using N3 computers. Worryingly, if clinicians apparently can't understand how to use a captcha now and again we're all in serious trouble.

    1. richardcox13

      Re: As a former NHS minion…

      > as a Bing engineer it must be soul destroying to constantly see your competition as the most searched for term on your own engine. :)

      Reputedly the most searched for term on Google is "Google", so perhaps not.

      1. Mahhn

        Re: As a former NHS minion…

        when I get mad at the lame results on google, I do a search for Google Sucks, and hit the search button 50 times. Bing's results are even less relevant. It's as if it completely ignores what you put in to search for.

  6. Caff

    three ireland

    Similar thing happened last year before christmass with google blocking three ireland traffic

  7. Vimes

    I used to have to go to hospital regularly for my pre-transplant appointments. It seemed at the time that they couldn't even keep track of the paper records, never mind deal properly with anything of a technological nature (they managed to lose my notes on a distressingly large number of occasions).

    Incidentally, it may have been my imagination but I could have sworn the last time I saw a PC in hospital a few weeks back it was running XP...

    Mind you at the time the whole place seemed to be poorly run (this is getting on for 20 years ago now). I recall having to stay overnight after a biopsy on a ward. The bathroom was located at the end and was a large room obviously intended to deal with disabled people too. I remember how the elderly man next to me had to get up in the middle of the night to use the toilet. All I could hear was a series of heartfelt faint 'Oh dear's repeatedly coming from the bathroom at the time.

    I had to get up myself a while later, probably ~6-8 hours later. When I went in there I saw a series of dry brown puddles leading up to the toilet.

    Nobody had noticed in the intervening time and nobody had bothered to clean it up.

    1. magickmark

      XP?

      "Incidentally, it may have been my imagination but I could have sworn the last time I saw a PC in hospital a few weeks back it was running XP."

      There is a possibility it could have been some form of XP but most places have now 'upgraded' to Windows 7, but.. very often its configured to look like XP and its so locked down there's no way to change it!!

      1. Simon Harris Silver badge

        Re: XP?

        It's quite possible - some PC controlled equipment never got drivers for anything more modern than for XP.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: XP? @magicmark

        It could well be XP. There could be a particularly badly written piece of software that a hospital is too cash strapped to replace/upgrade yet. Some of that software will only run on XP.

      3. Cashpot

        Re: XP?

        Absolutely true. St. Mary's Hospital certainly has XP computers which are not (supposed) to have "outside" i.e. internet access. Naturally people get round this. I could give the room numbers if required.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      This is why the likes of my NHS are moving to an electronic paper record, whilst hardly ideal it at least means clinicians can see everything and don't need to chase after paper constantly. I do have concerns around protecting that information - but at least with it being on systems we can audit who's accessing what and prevent misuse and reduce information being lost - which happens a lot more often than many people realise.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Don't forget that due to the constant removal of back room staff there are rarely any clerical staff on wards, it's nurses having to do filing now - and there are far more filing mistakes due to that. As much as I hate to say it many of the hated "middle managers" are needed and from my own experience they tend to be the staff with the well being of the patient at heart - senior management are simply too detached from what happens on wards to give a toss.

  8. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. dkb

    We had exactly the same issue here, and suffered with it intermittently for 17 months until I finally got to the bottom of it. Google provide some GPOs to use Chrome on an Active Directory settings. The default search engine settings in these normally work fine, but if high traffic goes through them, then you can be blocked in this way. The Google search team offered me an alternative baseURL setting and it worked instantly with no problems since.

  10. TeeCee Gold badge
    Meh

    Why?

    I always like to use Occam's Razor in situations like this.

    So, what's the most simple reason why Google might think they're a botnet? Their computers are riddled with crapware[1] and they are a botnet.

    [1] El Reg articles passim ad infinitum.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Why?

      Also use of Chrome (Google Spyware) should be illegal in NHS anyway.

  11. theblackhand

    In my experience...

    I've seen a number of sites getting the Google CAPTCHA message and the cause is almost always someone messing around with search engine optimisation (SEO) tools without a good understanding of what they're doing.

    Having said that, it can be hard to find (which of these thousands of Google requests per minute is causing the issue).

    And the annoying thing is that the culprit almost always knows they were causing the issue in spite of the any communication...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    MRSA has finally gone digital.

    We are all fucked.

  13. Forget It
    Facepalm

    Oh no!

    Someone in the NHS

    used Reply_All

    to the whole of GMail

  14. Doctor_Wibble
    Paris Hilton

    So Chrome gets a free pass?

    Assumption that I've understood correctly, users on Chrome were having no problems, people with other browsers were having trouble being blocked/captcha'd before being allowed to search on google?

    Or am I creating a whole new monopoly misuse/conspiracy based on prejudice and misreading...?

    1. Mattjimf

      Re: So Chrome gets a free pass?

      Alway happens on a Monday, at least in my Trust.

      IE 11 and Chrome fine to complete captcha, IE 8 (yes we are still using it, and we still have a few XP machines (in the very low hundreds)) can't manage the captcha.

      We currently have a ongoing project to update IE to 11 Trust wide standard, but hampered by external suppliers only supporting IE8, Chrome is App-V only.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is there more to it than Google is letting on here? Recently, there was notification (seen on N3) of APT Group Carbanak having been found to be hosting a Command and Control server on Google's own cloud servers.. Looks like success to me

  16. Rob Daglish

    We used to get this issue frequently...

    When I worked for Cumbria LA,every school bar 6 went off to the net via our 4 proxy servers, so it looked like they were generating large volumes of traffic, and we'd get the CAPTCHA form quite regularly. Usually took a day or two to get sorted.

  17. Hogwam

    The issues with access to Google from N3 have been happening for weeks now - usually resulting in having to complete a CAPTCHA, but sometimes failing completely.

    N3 was never designed to be an Internet egress, but most Trusts use it for that to save paying for their own Internet circuits and keep their network more simplistic (N3 is centrally funded, free-of-charge to those using it to access nationally hosted clinical systems - it's primary use).

    However N3 is on it's way out, to be replaced with HSCN https://digital.nhs.uk/health-social-care-network

  18. PNGuinn Silver badge
    Trollface

    it was the "go-to resource" for a lot of clinicians ...

    So, you're suggesting that the average clinician isn't capable of accessing Wikipeedia directly without the help of the big G??

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: it was the "go-to resource" for a lot of clinicians ...

      They most certainly are not!

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NHS on Zscaler?

    I thought the NHS moved onto Zscaler for Cloud based Web Proxy solution a few years ago. I don't work for NHS but we do use Zscaler in my company as our cloud based web proxy. We get the same Google Captcha Prompts every now and again and it is Zscaler who ends up resolving this with Google. If they use Zscaler I wouldn't say its necessarily just the NHS which has the issue. It would be any company using the specific Zscaler Node which has the Google issue at a given time.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Other possible triggers

    I saw, last night, that a mailing list I was on had been hit by some 60,000 emails, luckily spotted and stopped. Many were coming from one ISP address, allocated to the same company I connect through, but I use a 3rd-party email system to read and send emails, so I can change my ISP without those hassles at least.

    Something about what happened got the mailing-list server onto a couple of block lists.

    So I suppose it is possible than one dodgy system feeding into Google via the NHS network could turn it into a notwork at the drop of a hat.

    (The "cafe" at my local hospital has open WiFi. I don't know if any of that traffic goes through the main NHS system, but it feels like a weak point. The place is run by one of those 3rd-party contractors,)

  21. TRT Silver badge

    Of course there's also...

    the machine that goes Bing!

  22. oddie

    "Digital"

    "NHS Digital spokesman"

    You keep using that word - I do not think it means what you think it means

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: "Digital"

      They examine the professionalism of the electronic real estate. Or, for short, they perform a prostate exam.

      Oh, and spokesperson, please. Let's not allow our unconscious biases to get the better of us.

  23. Graham Jordan

    Hotmail FAIL

    I used to work for the NHS many moons back and I can't tell you how many times hotmail blocked the .nhs domain, maybe twice a year it'd get black listed for 24-48 hours at a time?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hotmail FAIL

      Having worked in NHS IM&T many moons ago and seen what hits the exterior firewalls on sites (inside the NHS N3 network) I think it safe to assume that the problem is simply that Google received so many attacks from the N3 egress IP's that they have been blocked.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hotmail FAIL

      The NHS now blocks Hotmail. This is not revenge but all web based email is now blocked - MS, Google, Yahoo! and so on.

      I understand that not all hospitals have "got the memo" yet but everyone else is using their own phones for their own email.

  24. teknopaul Bronze badge

    fake news

    come on reg, this is surely just that captcha popup that I have seen loads before.

    Not even slightly "blocking".

  25. Mr Dogshit

    Pffff

    NHS staff, like 99% of the population, wrongly believe that there is only one search engine in the entire universe, and that that search engine is Google.

    1. Planty Bronze badge

      Re: Pffff

      There is only 1 worthwhile searchengine, and it' Google of course. Without pagerank, all other search engines are hopeless.

    2. Robert Baker

      Re: Pffff

      "We are advising staff to use an alternative search engine i.e. Bing to bypass this problem."

      The NHS staffer who wrote that clearly believes that Bing is the only other search engine, as indicated by the "i.e." (=that is to say). Unless of course he was making the common mistake of using "i.e." when he meant "e.g." (=for example).

  26. Planty Bronze badge
    FAIL

    use Bing

    No thanks. It's hopeless.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Devil

      Re: use Bing

      You mean hilarious.

      Everyone should try it on occasion just to see, before you've even entered search terms, what tabloid trash the great mass of humanity is searching for.

      Then, once you start typing, it'll add helpful suggestions like "...and lesbianism".

      Bing Image Search is particularly entertaining.. but often NSFW. It'll be great fun when searching for anatomical terms at NHS.

  27. d3vy Silver badge

    I got this while doing some research* via ToR last week, it was solved with a captcha and then I carried on.

    I've not encountered that before so I assume Google have changed their thresholds for what they consider to be abnormal.

    * I was trying to determine if there was a correlation between nationality and 'Jigglyness' - More research required.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Machine learning at its very finest?

    "assume Google have changed their thresholds for what they consider to be abnormal."

    (and others related).

    I mean, who'd have thought that it could get confusbed by a non-typical (but arguably entirely reasonable?) customer network configuration?

  29. Schism

    Not just NHS

    I'm in a different UK government department, and we've been getting Captcha blocks/requests pretty much solidly for the last 6 weeks. Much as I hate to give our IT folks a free pass, this feels more like something Google themselves have changed and are unwilling/unable to admit to.

    (Our IT folk also suggested Bing. Which means if it IS something at Google's end, it's a massive own goal for their business).

  30. froberts2

    NHS uses Zscaler, and these problems have plagued Zscaler for years.

    It's easy to deliberately trigger this via a Zscaler node, and once you do everyone using that node will be either CAPTCHAed or blocked.

  31. EdFX

    Easy done...

    ... I worked at very large UK portal and we accidentally blocked nhs as well. Huge traffic from one IP and very scattered so looked like a bot gathering search data!

  32. David Roberts Silver badge

    Crap search engines

    Those wondering why the NHS might be addicted to Google might consider other organisations (looking at you, Amazon) who have such crap internal search engines that it is more effective to search using Google.

    I suspect most internal NHS information is found by that route.

  33. Cashpot

    Wikipedia Riles!

    I have a rare illness and the very first thing that staff who do not know me do is Google my illness and then visit the top entry i.e. Wikipedia. Trouble is I wrote the Wikipedia page! I included a minor omission just to see how many medical staff relied on that information. They could easily get a full and extremely well written explanation from the Phoenix Mayo Clinic web site. Unfortunately it is not unheard of for them to ask me if the Mayo Clinic is NHS or private and then say they are not allowed to access their site!

    The NHS tries, but is severely held back by staff who only know just enough to do their jobs.

  34. EnviableOne Bronze badge

    The entire NHS (largest employer in the UK) comes out of a relatively small IP range a single /24 and its been an issue for a while, the the NHS mail domain gets regularly added to spam lists.

    Most large organisations have local breakouts to the internet that limit the flow of traffic seen from one IP or range.

    The Z-Scaler issue may be contributing, but when you have 1.3 million employees googling facebook or twitter at lunchtime, its a big spike.

  35. Allonymous Coward

    Google has prior form

    I remember a few years ago, they didn't recognise nhs.uk domains as valid when trying to register with Analytics and the like.

    Questions on the Google product support [sic] forum went unanswered. It took social media pressure from a bunch of p'ed off NHS web types to get them to fix the issue. And even when they did, Google never admitted there'd been a problem.

  36. Cornholio

    Broken

    When it happens here, I go through the captcha and it give me a 400 error.

    We've been advised to use Bing.

    Tried to access boots.com this morning and they wouldn't let me on:

    'The behaviour of your interaction with our site does not align with profile of normal customer behaviour.

    If you have requirements for information from this site, please contact us to discuss further.'

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The other issue is some of the clinical systems won't work with IE9 and IE8 can't display the CAPTCHA

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not uncommon

    This kind of thing used to happen at Amazon when I worked there and at other companies too - especially when you have people in technical trades or research focus

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmmmm

    We should do a FOI on Internet usage (popular web sites etc), across the various NHS Trusts. Believe me, much would be revealed!

  40. Mattjimf

    Here we go again.

    And it's been blocked again, this time the capture isn't working on Chrome or IE11.

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