Europol says Global Cyberattack Affects 150 Countries

The attack infected computers with what is known as "ransomware" - software that locks up the user's data and flashes a message demanding payment to release it.

When the National Security Agency lost control of the software behind the WannaCry cyberattack, it was like "the us military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen", Microsoft President Brad Smith says, in a message about the malicious software that has created havoc on computer networks in more than 150 countries since Friday.

The Ministry of Information and Technology through - CERT-In- which is the nodal agency to tackle hacking, phishing, and secure defences of the Indian Internet domain said "The virus encrypts the files on infected Windows system and there are two key components - a worm and a ransomware package".

The apparently random attack, called "WannaCry," hit on Friday and spread like wildfire before a malware researcher identified as Marcus Hutchins was able to halt it temporarily a day later, when workers in many companies weren't in their offices.

All it takes is for one computer on a network to be infected for all of the computers on that network to be compromised.

Symantec said the majority of organisations affected were in Europe. But U.K. hospitals, Chinese universities and global firms like Fedex (FDX) also reported they had come under assault.

He said it's likely the ransomware will spread to USA firms too.

"We are working with customers to provide additional assistance as this situation evolves", the company said.

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Europol's Wainwright underscored the point Sunday. The exploit was leaked last month as part of a trove of NSA spy tools.

Officials across the globe scrambled over the weekend to catch the culprits behind a massive ransomware worm that disrupted operations at auto factories, hospitals, shops and schools, while Microsoft on Sunday pinned blame on the US government for not disclosing more software vulnerabilities.

The initial attack was stifled when a security researcher disabled a key mechanism used by the worm to spread, but experts said the hackers were likely to mount a second attack because so many users of personal computers with Microsoft Corp. operating systems couldn't or didn't download a security patch released in March that Microsoft had labeled "critical". In what some are calling an unusual step, Microsoft announced that it would roll out updates to users of older operating systems "that no longer receive mainstream support", such as Windows XP, Windows 8 and Windows Server 2003. "Even without having an antivirus", they said. In addition to Russian Federation, the biggest targets appeared to be Ukraine and India, nations where it is common to find older, unpatched versions of Windows in use, according to the security firm.

"We've seen the rise of ransomware becoming the principal threat, I think, but this is something we haven't seen before - the global reach is unprecedented", Wainwright said.

Hopefully, this ransomware attack has shaken IT administrators to the core, and helped decision-makers somehow find the budgets to upgrade their systems and keep them up to date at all times.

And WannaCry has already caused massive disruption around the globe.

The UK's National Health Service (NHS) was among the hardest hit and it has been reported that the IT systems of about 40 NHS organizations have been affected by this ransomware attack. "The geography of attacks that hit post-Soviet Union most also suggests that". Anti-virus signatures for known ransomware variants, including WannaCry, may need to be updated as well. "Most of the reported cases of payment of ransom are from overseas".

Senior U.S. security officials held another meeting in the White House Situation Room on Saturday, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency were working to help mitigate damage and identify the perpetrators of the massive cyber attack, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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