A British surgeon and consultant David Nott was just trying to help wounded Syrians in the war struck Aleppo region by giving out instructions using Skype and WhatsApp. Dr. Nott’s job was to remotely supervise doctors as they carried out surgeries in an underground medical facility namely M10 hospital. Unfortunately, on Oct 3, 2016, that particular hospital got bombed in an airstrike by warplanes with the key target being the OT (operation theatre).
Dr. Nott believes that his laptop might have been hacked by the perpetrators of the air strike considering the timing and target of the attack. During the airstrike, the underground hospital was hit with bunker buster bomb. Two patients died as result of the attack while the hospital has been closed permanently.
The British surgeon is known for performing surgical procedures in various war zones across the globe. The abovementioned operation was his very first attempt to offer medical help via the internet to his Syrian colleagues, which was later reported about by BBC’s Newsnight program on Sept 13, 2016.
The surgery was being carried out by Dr. Nott’s former students who used a selfie stick so that the British doctor was able to watch the operation closely. The operation was of jaw reconstruction on an Aleppo resident, shopkeeper, and father of three Mohammed, who allegedly was hit by a Russian bomb.
It must be noted that Dr. Nott has already performed dozens of surgeries in Syria. His humane attitude has garnered him immense acclaim among philanthropists and medical fraternity and he is referred to as the “Indiana Jones of Surgery” by his colleagues.
Responding to the news of the attack on M10 hospital, Newsnight journalist John Sweeney took to Twitter to express his dismay: “Did Russian/Syrian bombs target this hospital in Aleppo because of our @BBCNewsnight film with @NottFoundation? If so, a sickening act of inhumanity.”
BBC also released the following statement:
“The bombing of the M10 hospital in Aleppo was a tragedy, but we haven’t seen any evidence to suggest that the attack was linked to the Newsnight report or the many other media stories about the work of David Nott and the doctors in the hospital. The hospital had already been targeted many times before our report, and the suggestion of such a link remains purely speculative.”
Dr. Nott claimed that attack on hospitals was an evil feat and a “crime against humanity.” He also pledged that from now on he will not offer medical help through the internet ever. While speaking with the Telegraph, he stated:
“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,” added Dr. Nott.
This hospital has already been bombed on 17 occasions in the past. However, Dr. Nott believes that the 2016 attack was made possible by his computer as hackers gained information about the exact location of the OT and directed the bomb towards it.
However, Hacker House cyber-security firm’s Matthew Hickey told BBC that there are several other ways of targeting the hospital and without actually analyzing forensics it is not possible to make such a claim. He further stated that using safe and secure technological solutions like the Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and well-protected laptops it is possible to supervise surgeries remotely. What’s important, added Mr. Hickey, is that we learn the lesson and build a “more secure solution for doing that kind of work.”
Dr. Nott believes that somebody watched the Newsnight program as it was uploaded on the news channel’s YouTube channel and then attacked his computer. The OBE recipient has since then changed his computer and phone and refrained from commenting on the probable hackers.