Published: Sat, May 13, 2017
Hi-Tech | By Ellis Neal

Massive ransomware cyber-attack hits almost 100 countries around the world

"And some of them may not be well prepared for such attacks", Camacho said. It encrypts files on a user's computer, blocking them from view, before demanding money, via an on-screen message, to access them again.

"So I can only add "accidentally stopped an worldwide cyber attack" to my Résumé".

It was not immediately clear who was behind the attacks, but the acts deeply alarmed cybersecurity experts and underscored the enormous vulnerabilities to Internet invasions faced by disjointed networks of computer systems around the world.

She added that lessons may need to be learned in the wake of the breach, which has affected NHS services across England and Scotland.

Chris Wysopal of the software security firm Veracode said criminal organizations were probably behind the attack, given how quickly the malware spread.

A spokesman for NHS Digital, which manages health service cyber security, said: "At this stage, we do not have any evidence that patient data has been accessed".

Experts said the malware enters companies and organizations when employees click on email attachments, then spreads quickly internally when employees share documents and other files. The East and North Hertfordshire NHS trust has shut down IT systems and telephone lines and asked people in the area not to go to A&E unless it's a life-threatening emergency. However, there have been some reports of ambulances being diverted from affected hospitals.

"This is not targeted at the NHS, it's an worldwide attack and a number of countries and organisations have been affected", she added. The malicious software locked British hospitals out of their computer systems and demanded the ransom before they could be let back in.

Chancellor Philip Hammond disclosed in February that the NCSC had blocked 34,550 potential attacks targeting UK Government departments and members of the public in six months.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said 45 NHS organisations had been affected, work was ongoing to identify the attackers, and that no patient data had been stolen.

Patrick Ward, a 47-year-old sales director, said his heart operation, scheduled for Friday, was canceled at St. Bartholomew's Hospital in London.

"Looking at the trends, it was going to happen", he said.

In Spain, some big firms took pre-emptive steps to thwart ransomware attacks following a warning from the National Cryptology Centre of "a massive ransomware attack". The attack affected systems in almost 100 countries, including the Britain's health system, Russia's Interior Ministry and global logistics company FedEx. The malware used in the NHS attack is called WannaCry and attacks Windows operating systems.

In Russia, the Interior Ministry said around 1,000 computers were hit by a cyber attack.

Telecommunications giant Telefonica was among the targets in Spain, though it said the attack was limited to some computers on an internal network and had not affected clients or services.

He told the BBC: "It's important to understand that cyber attacks can be different from other forms of crime in that their sometimes highly technical and anonymous nature means it can take some time to understand how it worked, who was behind it and what the impact is". In 2016, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in California said it had paid a $17,000 ransom to regain control of its computers from hackers.

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