Cyberattack hits 200000 users in over 150 countries

Tammy Harvey
May 15, 2017

The cyberattack that spread malicious software around the world, shutting down networks at hospitals, banks and government agencies, was thwarted by a young British researcher and an low-cost domain registration, with help from another 20-something security engineer in the U.S.

MalwareTech, who wants to remain anonymous, was hailed as an "accidental hero" after registering a domain name to track the spread of the virus, which actually ended up halting it.

He said: "We have been concerned for some time that the healthcare sectors in many countries are particularly vulnerable".

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

Microsoft swiftly released software "patches" to fix those holes, but many users still haven't installed updates or still use older versions of Windows.

It remains unknown who is behind the attack and what their motivation for the attack is. It's so unprecedented, in fact, that Microsoft quickly changed its policy, announcing security fixes available for free for the older Windows systems still used by millions of individuals and smaller businesses.

Dozens of countries were hit by the ransomware attack on Friday that locked up computers and held users' files for ransom at a multitude of hospitals, companies and government agencies. Many cancelled all routine procedures and asked patients not to come to the hospital unless it was an emergency. The bank network is protected from such attack.

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

In the last 24-hours the global wave of attacks is "at an unprecedented level", this is written in an Europol report.

France's carmaker Renault was forced to stop production at a number of sites. Radio Slovenia said Saturday the Revoz factory in the southeastern town of Novo Mesto stopped working Friday evening to stop the malware from spreading.

The head of the European Union law enforcement agency Europol has confirmed a major cyber attack has affected 200,000 victims in at least 150 countries.

Detective Chief Inspector Douglas Grant said: "Since this attack occurred on Friday afternoon we have been working with representatives from the national government, National Crime Agency, National Cyber Security Centre and cyber security experts to put in place mechanisms to mitigate the risk to systems in Northern Ireland".

Europol, the European Union's police agency, said the onslaught was at "an unprecedented level and will require a complex worldwide investigation to identify the culprits".

The attack is believed to be the biggest online extortion attack ever recorded. The company said it deployed extra staff to busy stations to provide customer information, and recommended that passengers check its website or app for information on their connections.

China's official Xinhua news agency said some secondary schools and universities had been affected, without specifying how many or identifying them.

The attack, which started on Friday, is suspected to be the largest attack, with victims including Britain's hospital network and Germany's national railway.

Researchers with security software maker Avast said they had observed 57,000 infections in 99 countries, with Russia, Ukraine and Taiwan the top targets.

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.

Other reports by Ligue1talk

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