In a new widespread cyber attack, several multinational companies, hospitals and schools were hit by a tool, which experts say was stolen from the National Security Agency (NSA) of the United States. The cyberattack was first reported from Sweden, Britain and France. However, media reports indicate Russia and Taiwan are worst hit by the attack. The attack affected systems in nearly 100 countries, including the Britain’s health system, Russia’s Interior Ministry and global logistics company FedEx.
According to reports, the cyber criminals tricked people into opening malicious malware attachments to spam emails that contained job offers, security warnings and other legitimate files. The malicious software locked British hospitals out of their computer systems and demanded the ransom before they could be let back in. The cyber criminals asked for $300 to $600 to restore access. According to Kaspersky Lab, Russia was the worst-hit, followed by Ukraine, India and Taiwan, reports NYTimes.
Private security firms identified the ransomware as a new variant of “WannaCry”. US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (USCRT) which is under the Department of Homeland Security, said it had received multiple reports of WannaCry ransomware from many countries around the world. For a clear picture, WannaCry is a form of ransomware that locks up files on your computer and encrypts them in a way that you cannot access them. When a system is infected, a pop-up window appears with instructions on how to pay a ransom amount of $300 and payment is only accepted in bitcoin.
Researchers with Avast said they had observed 57,000 infections in 99 countries. In China, Xinhua news agency said some secondary schools and universities had been affected. ALSO READ: Ransomware to double in 2017 unless governments act: F-Secure
The hackers, who have not come forward to claim responsibility for the attack have exploited a piece of NSA code known as “Eternal Blue”. Amid the cyber attack, Microsoft issued a statement that said it was pushing out automatic Windows updates to defend customers from WannaCry. It issued a patch on March 14 to protect them from Eternal Blue. “Today our engineers added detection and protection against new malicious software known as Ransom:Win32.WannaCrypt,” Microsoft said in a statement to Reuters.