A British surgeon fears his computer was targeted, allowing hackers to gain the coordinates of a Syrian hospital that was then destroyed by suspected Russian warplanes.
London-based trauma surgeon David Nott has given up several weeks of each year to operate without pay on victims of conflict in the world’s most dangerous trouble spots for the past 25 years.
In 2016, he used a selfie stick to watch his former students carry out surgery on injured patients in an underground hospital in Aleppo, Syria.
The ground-breaking method then allowed for Mr Nott to provide remote instructions via WhatsApp and Skype from his London office.
However, the consultant suspects that his computer was hacked in order to gain the coordinates of the M10 hospital, after footage of the operation was broadcast by BBC Newsnight on 13 September 2016.
London-based trauma surgeon David Nott (pictured in Syria) used a selfie stick to watch his former students carry out surgery on injured patients in an underground hospital in Aleppo, Syria in 2016
Just weeks after footage of the ground-breaking method on BBC Newsnight the M10 hospital was ‘completely destroyed’ in airstrikes (pictured with members of his team in a hospital in Rutshuru, Democratic Republic of the Congo)
Just weeks after it aired, the largest hospital in rebel-held parts of Aleppo was ‘completely destroyed’ in airstrikes.
The warplanes – thought to be Russian – hit the M10 hospital directly, killing two patients and permanently closing the operating theatre.
Although M10 had previously been bombed at least 17 times, Mr Nott believes hackers could only have got its precise co-ordinates through his operating methods.
He said: ‘The operation was the only time co-ordinates came out of that operating theatre.’
It is unclear when he was allegedly hacked, but Mr Nott says it is likely that somebody watched the BBC programme and then targeted his computer.
Dubbed the ‘Indiana Jones of Surgery’, Mr Nott, who has received an OBE for his work in war zones, has now changed his phone and computer.
He told the Daily Telegraph last night: ‘The thing that gets me is that we now cannot help doctors in war zones, if somebody is watching what we are doing and blows up the hospital then that is a war crime.
‘It is a crime against humanity that you can’t even help a doctor in another country carry out an operation. It is a travesty.’
Although M10 (pictured) had previously been bombed at least 17 times, Mr Nott believes hackers could only have got its precise co-ordinates through his operating methods.
He said he will not help perform operations via his computer from the UK anymore.
Mr Nott did not want to speculate on who had targeted his computer, or dropped the bomb.
But experts believe that because of its sophistication, the bomb, also known as a ‘bunker buster’ due to its ability to hit underground targets, was dropped by Russian jets.
And Former Cabinet minister Priti Patel said she would not be surprised if Russia was behind the bombing.
The Tory MP for Witham said: ‘It’s a huge, huge issue. We should all pay an enormous tribute to David Nott. He is an amazing individual who in the most difficult circumstances has been saving lives in Syria while the bombs of Assad have been falling down.
‘It would hardly be surprising if Russian interference was behind the bombing of this hospital. It speaks of the appalling regime and the lack of respect for human life. We need to put pressure on Russia and ask what has happened here.’
Professor Alan Woodward, from the Surrey Centre for Cyber Security, told the Daily Telegraph that Mr Nott’s phone or computer could have been targeted during the operation.
However, he said gaining access at a later date to find out who he had been talking to would have been much simpler.
He fears his computer was hacked in order to gain the exact coordinates of the hospital. Mr Nott (pictured on BBC Newsnight talking about his new method) said: ‘The operation was the only time co-ordinates came out of that operating theatre’
Describing the method, he said: ‘It is a fairly classic way of getting information. You don’t need to do it at the time, you can break in at your leisure.’
Former president of the Syrian American Medical Society, Zaher Sahloul, which ran the hospital at the time of the bombing, said: ‘Hospitals are targeted so that people cannot live in that area as there is no health care, it is a tactic that the regime and Russia have been using since the beginning. ‘The bunker-busting missile is so advanced that it is believed that the Syrian regime would not have them, that is why many people believe that it was the Russians who dropped that bomb.’
It comes after airstrikes in Syria killed more than 100 people last week as civilians, weary and many wounded, fled besieged areas for the second straight day.
Friday’s staggering death toll came a day after Syria passed the seven-year mark in its relentless civil war that has killed some 450,000 people and displaced half the country’s population.
In January Syria Deeply reported that about 485 medical facilities had been hit by military airstrikes since the start of the Syrian conflict, resulting in the deaths of about healthcare workers.
At least 64 percent of these attacks were carried out by the Syrian military, with the rest committed by Russian forces, non-state groups or unknown attackers.