Organizations across the globe are being crippled by a massive cyber attack on Friday, causing major disruption to business operation and locking out users unless they pay a “ransom.”
At least 74 countries have reported ransomware attacks, including the UK, U.S., China, Russia, Spain, Italy and Taiwan, according to BBC News.
Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica, power company Iberdrola, utility provider Gas Natural, and some undisclosed territories of FedEx are among the growing list of companies hit by the cyber security outbreak.
Security experts claim the widespread incidents are connected and have one common denominator: demanding the computer’s administrator to pay a ransom in order to regain access.
“Effected machines have six hours to pay up and every few hours the ransom goes up,” said Kurt Baumgartner, a security researcher at Kaspersky Lab. “Most folks that have paid up appear to have paid the initial $300 in the first few hours.”
Bitcoin wallets associated with the ransomware were reported to have already started filling up with cash, says the report.
Cyber expert, Jakub Kroutstek, tweeted that he detected tens of thousands of ransomware cases–known as WannaCry and different variations of that name–in multiple countries.
— Jakub Kroustek (@JakubKroustek) May 12, 2017
The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) was another victim of the ransomware attack. Several NHS staff members shared screenshots of the WannaCry program and reported being locked out of their systems and unable to access patient data, and messages appearing on their screens demanding $300 in Bitcoin.
“The investigation is at an early stage but we believe the malware variant is Wanna Decryptor,” officials at NHS Digital said in a statement. “At this stage, we do not have any evidence that patient data has been accessed. We will continue to work with affected organizations to confirm this,” the statement read.
Experts monitoring the situation have linked the infections to vulnerabilities released by a group of hackers known as The Shadow Brokers, which recently claimed it released malware allegedly created by the US National Security Agency (NSA).
Microsoft developed a patch for this particular vulnerability in March, but those organizations whose systems have been affected systems may not have installed the most recent update to address the issue.
Others suspect the infection may be deployed using a type of worm program, which is capable of spreading to other computers on the same wireless network.
Security experts are currently trying to remediate the problem.
This latest cyber attack comes one day after President Trump signed an executive order, which aims to protect the nation’s infrastructure from incurring future malicious attacks and increases cyber security initiatives.
So far, we have recorded more than 45,000 attacks of the #WannaCry ransomware in 74 countries around the world. Number still growing fast.
— Costin Raiu (@craiu) May 12, 2017
— Health IT Security (@HealthITsec) May 12, 2017
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