Ransomware Cyber attack threat escalating: Europol

Ransomware Cyber attack threat escalating: Europol

Had it not been for a young cybersecurity researcher's accidental discovery of a so-called "kill switch", the malicious software likely would have spread much farther and faster.

The researcher, who is known as MalwareTech, registered a domain name to track the virus, unintentionally halting it in the process.

The virus took control of users' files, demanding payments; Russian Federation and the United Kingdom were among the worst-hit countries.

The paper quoted the researcher as saying: "This is not over".

In the wake of the attack, 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.

He said the motivation remained unknown but ransomware attacks were normally "criminally minded". But many companies and individuals haven't installed the fixes yet or are using older versions of Windows that Microsoft no longer supports and didn't fix.

The attack held hospitals and other entities hostage by freezing computers, encrypting data and demanding money through online bitcoin payments. Britain canceled or delayed treatments for thousands of 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.

"This attack is going to be a wake-up call for many businesses that have dragged their feet when it comes to security and updating their systems", Bazley said.

A "patch" is a piece of software created to update a computer program or its supporting data, to fix or improve it.

More news: Canada rejects US duties on lumber as 'baseless'

As terrifying as the unprecedented global "ransomware" attack was, cybersecurity experts say it's nothing compared to what might be coming - especially if companies, organizations and governments don't make major fixes.

Europol's executive director Robert Wainwright told ITV that there were at least 200,000 victims across 150 countries so far, and that number will go up on Monday morning when people go back to work.

FRANCE - French carmaker Renault's assembly plant in Slovenia halted production after it was targeted.

Huss and others were calling MalwareTech a hero on Saturday, with Huss adding that the global cybersecurity community was working "as a team" to stop the infections from spreading.

Europol said its cybercrime specialists will support affected countries as a "complex worldwide investigation" to identify the culprits begins.

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.

Deutsche Bahn: The German railway company told CNNMoney that due to the attack "passenger information displays in some stations were inoperative" as were "some ticket machines".

United Kingdom defense secretary Michael Fallon said Sunday that Britain's nuclear submarines were safe from cyberattack. "The work to eliminate it and upgrade anti-virus protection is now underway", they said in an official statement.

Germany's national railway said it was among the organisations affected by the global attack, but there had been no impact on train services. Omer Fatih Sayan said the country's cyber security centre was 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.

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