Ransomware attack hit 200000 in at least 150 countries

Violet Tucker
May 15, 2017

The cyberattack that spread malicious software around the world, shutting down networks at hospitals, banks and government agencies, was thwarted by a young British researcher and an cheap domain registration, with help from another 20-something security engineer in the U.S.

The attack has plunged Britain's health service into disarray, and affected French vehicle manufacturers, Russian banks, and a Spanish telecoms operator, according to reports on Saturday.

MalwareTech is part of a large global cybersecurity community, working independently or for security companies, who are constantly watching for attacks and working together to stop or prevent them, often sharing information via Twitter.

"Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP three years ago, hoping they would move to newer versions of the operating system", Al Jazeera's technology editor, Tarek Bazley, said.

He said it was too early to say who is behind the onslaught and what their motivation was.

Ori Eisen, an expert in Arizona, says the attack Friday that held hospitals, factories and government agencies hostage around the world appears to be "low-level" stuff, given the ransom demands. It forced British hospitals to cancel and delay treatment for patients.

The US government on Saturday issued a technical alert with advice on how to protect against the attacks, asking victims to report any to the Federal Bureau of Investigation or Department of Homeland Security.

Cyber security experts say many companies may be affected, but won't find out until they reopen for business tomorrow morning.

Among the countries that reported major problems were Slovenia, which said French auto manufacturer Renault's assembly plant in Slovenia halted production after it was targeted in the global cyber-attack.

Microsoft released fixes for the vulnerability in March, but computers that didn't run the update were subject to the ransom attack.

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The hacking tool, a new strain of "WannaCry" ransomware, is believed to have been developed by the US National Security Agency. Elsewhere in Europe, the attack hit companies including Spain's Telefonica, a global broadband and telecommunications company.

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Renault's futuristic assembly line in Slovenia, where rows of robots weld auto bodies together, was stopped cold.

Friday's global cyber-attack has affected more than 200,000 victims in 150 countries, Europol chief Rob Wainwright said on Sunday. Intelligence officials wouldn't comment on the authenticity of the claims.

"The recent attack is at an unprecedented level and will require a complex worldwide investigation to identify the culprits", the agency said.

The cyberattack has severely affected Britain's healthcare services.

This is already believed to be the biggest online extortion attack ever recorded, disrupting services in nations as diverse as the U.S., Russia, Ukraine, Brazil, Spain and India.

Germany's rail operator Deutsche Bahn said its station display panels were affected.

Mr Wainwright said the attack was indiscriminate, fast-spreading and unique because the ransomware was being used in combination with a worm which means the infection of one computer could automatically spread it through a whole network.

Cyber extortionists tricked victims into opening malicious malware attachments to spam emails that appeared to contain invoices, job offers, security warnings and other legitimate files. Omer Fatih Sayan said the country's cyber security center is continuing operations against the malicious software.

Sixteen National Health Service organizations in the United Kingdom were hit, and some of those hospitals canceled outpatient appointments and told people to avoid emergency departments if possible.

Other reports by Guamnewswatch

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