Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Health | By Jay Jacobs

WannaCry malware has hit 2 lakh victims, 150 countries

Victims whose computers have been infected receive a demand for a payment of $300 worth of Bitcoin in order to regain access to their files.

The spread of the attack appears to have been thwarted by private cybersecurity researchers who identified and triggered the malware's "kill switch", which halted the attacks before it spread throughout USA networks, a senior US intelligence official confirmed, but it is unclear whether, the official said, a modified attack will soon be launched.

"At the moment, we are in the face of an escalating threat", he told the British network ITV Sunday.

The former US national intelligence director says the global "ransomware" attack could grow much larger when people return to work.

This virus has been designed as a "worm", which means it can automatically spread to other computers on the same network.

In addition the Gibson Research Corporation offers a free "port scanner" here that allows you to check your computer to see "the most common and troublesome Internet ports" that computers have.

Hospitals, major companies and government offices were among those that were badly affected.

"There's a lot of older Windows products out there that are "end of life" and nobody's bothered to take them out of service", said Cynthia Larose, a cybersecurity expert at the law firm of Mintz Levin.

Experts and government officials urged users not to give in to the hackers' demands.

"NCSC and NCA are working with Europol and other global partners to make sure we all collect the right evidence, which we need to do to make sure we have the right material to find out who has done this and we go after them".

Europol's Wainwright underscored the point Sunday.

Cyber bad guys have spread ransomware, known as WannaCry, to computers around the world. The exploit was leaked last month as part of a trove of NSA spy tools.

Microsoft had issued a patch for the security flaw, but it appears that not all systems have installed the patch.

The so-called ransomware has wormed its way into thousands of computer systems in an apparent extortion plot, shutting users out unless they coughed up a payment.

Microsoft said it had taken the "highly unusual step" of releasing a patch for computers running older operating systems including Windows XP, Windows 8 and Windows Server 2003.

But the patches won't do any good for machines that have already been hit.

According to Matthew Hickey, founder of the security firm Hacker House, the attack is not surprising, and it shows many organizations do not apply updates in a timely fashion. Wainwright said Europol did not know the motive.

How to protect against the global WannaCrypt ransomware attack. Within a few hours, the malware infected victims in 74 countries, including Russia, Turkey, Germany, Vietnam, and the Philippines, and it is likely spreading at a rate of five million emails per hour, said, experts.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said there was no evidence that patient data had been compromised in the attack, and that it had not specifically targeted the National Health Service.

So far, no one has claimed the attacks. Fedex said Friday it was "experiencing interference with some of our Windows-based systems caused by malware". Two big telecom companies, Telefónica of Spain and Megafon of Russian Federation, were also hit.

Europe's police agency says the attack has hit at least 100,000 organizations in 150 countries.

She said: "If you look at who's been impacted by this virus, it's a huge variety across different industries and across worldwide governments".

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