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Ransomware Cyber attack threat escalating: Europol

19 May 2017, 10:49 | Marlene Myers

Once infected, all of the files on the computer are encrypted by the malware, which then displays a ransom demand of between U.S. $300 and $600 in bitcoin that needs to be paid before the files can be decrypted.

The threat from the cyber attack that crippled worldwide services "will continue to grow" as people return to work on Monday, the head of Europol warned.

"We're in the face of an escalating threat, the numbers are going up", he said, adding that the current attack was unprecedented.

But the next ransomware attack could take control over more number of computer systems across the world.

Russia, Ukraine and Taiwan have been the countries most affected by the attack.

Europol's Wainwright underscored the point Sunday. WannaCry, on the other hand, threatens to permanently lock away user files if the computer owner doesn't pay a ransom, which starts at US$300 (about 10,400 baht) but goes up after two hours.

Code for exploiting that bug, which is known as "Eternal Blue", was released on the internet last month by a hacking group known as the Shadow Brokers.

Microsoft is one company that had made a fix in its updates of recent versions of windows, but many users didn't apply the software fix.

In fact, according to cybersecurity researchers cited in a subsequent Bloomberg report, the attackers were exploiting a vulnerability in Microsoft software that was patched in March.

Europol chief warns that number of targets hit by WannaCry hack will grow when many return to work on Monday. Wainwright said Europol did not know the motive.

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Wainwright said the agency is analyzing the virus and has yet to identify who is responsible for the attack.

WASHINGTON/FRANKFURT, May 14 (Reuters) - Officials across the globe scrambled over the weekend to catch the culprits behind a massive ransomware worm that disrupted operations at vehicle factories, hospitals, shops and schools, while Microsoft on Sunday pinned blame on the US government for not disclosing more software vulnerabilities.

Senior security staff held another meeting in the White House Situation Room on Saturday, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Security Agency were trying to identify the perpetrators of the massive cyber attack, said the official, who spoke on condition on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

On Saturday, a cyber security researcher told AFP he had accidentally discovered a "kill switch" that could prevent the spread of the ransomware.

Gas stations: State-run media in China reported that some gas stations saw their digital payment systems shut down, forcing customers to bring cash. But one major company, Hitachi, said it was experiencing difficulties with its email system.

The Wanna Decryptor ransomware strikes by encrypting all the files on an infected PC, along with any other systems on the network the PC is attached to. Two big telecom companies, Telefónica of Spain and Megafon of Russian Federation, were also hit, as was Japanese carmaker Nissan in the United Kingdom.

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.

Meanwhile Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has insisted that Britain's nuclear deterrent is protected from cyberattacks.

Cybersecurity experts have been working around the clock to try to halt the malware attack that is unprecedented in scale.

Use antivirus software to protect systems.



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