Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Health Care | By Oscar Goodwin

Global cyber attack to wreak more havoc

A cyber-attack that has hit 150 countries since Friday should be treated by governments around the world as a "wake-up call", Microsoft says.

The attacks apparently exploited a flaw exposed in documents leaked from the US National Security Agency (NSA).

A spokeswoman for NHS Digital told The Guardian that "given the timing of the attack, some parts of the NHS will not have clocked there is an issue", raising fears more systems could be affected for the first time today.

"The recent attack is at an unprecedented level and will require a complex global investigation to identify the culprits", said a statement issued by Europol, Europe's police agency.

"It will hit you very quickly, very suddenly, and once it does everything is locked up", said Tucker.

The ransomware attack struck the British government's National Health Service, along with computer networks of companies and municipalities in dozens of other countries.

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Europol provides free decryption downloads for most ransomware already detected, though not yet for this particular attack.

In its latest update on the incident, Europol said it was the "largest ransomware attack observed in history".

Cyber security experts say the spread of the virus dubbed "WannaCry" - so-called "ransomware" which locked up computers in auto factories, hospitals, shops and schools around the world - has slowed, but that any respite might be brief.

"We will get a decryption tool eventually, but for the moment, it's still a live threat and we're still in disaster recovery mode", the report quoted Europol Director Rob Wainwright as saying.

Victims were asked for payment of $300 (275 euros) in the virtual currency Bitcoin.

Experts advise people not to pay, as it would only encourage the attackers, there is no guarantee that they will unblock files, and may result in them gaining access to victims' bank details.

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Microsoft said the situation was "painful" and that it was taking "all possible actions to protect our customers".

Hospitals, major companies and government offices were among those that were badly affected. "There are also a small number of reports made to the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network that may be cases of this ransomware campaign, but these have yet to be confirmed", said MacGibbon.

Microsoft said it had released a Windows security update in March to tackle the problem involved in the latest attack, but many users were yet to run it.

"The ransomware also spreads through malicious attachments to emails", it said.

"They're going to turn on their computers in the morning and find out if they were protected or not", said James Barnett, a security expert at Venable and retired Navy rear admiral.

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