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Ransomware Cyber attack threat escalating: Europol

16 May 2017

Telecommunications company Telefonica was among many targets in Spain. According to reports from multiple outlets, some of those cybersecurity professionals work for the U.S. Cyber Response Group that has been huddled with Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert all weekend. The cyberextortion attack hitting dozens of countries was a "perfect storm" of sorts.

Meanwhile health authorities are racing to upgrade security software amid fears hackers could exploit the same vulnerability with a new virus.

Cyber bad guys have spread ransomware, known as WannaCry, to computers around the world.

"IT managers need to be extremely aware that new variants of this ransomware attack are being launched nearly hourly, so they can't just check that their computer systems are protected, then relax, assuming everything will stay that way", he said.

Darien Huss, a 28-year-old research engineer who assisted the anonymous British researcher lauded a hero, said he was "still anxious for what's to come in the next few days because it really would not be so hard for the actors behind this to re-release their code without a kill switch or with a better kill switch". However, he said it's only a matter of time before a malevolent version exists. The attackers have locked up users' data and are demanding between $300 and $600 for the encryption key.

The health service in the North East has said it will continue to work on making sure its computer and clinical technology are working following the virus attack, which happened on Friday and has affected tens of thousands of organisations and businesses across 150 countries.

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The problem erupted around 12:30 p.m. local time, the IT worker says, with a number of email servers crashing.

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 United States government for not disclosing more software vulnerabilities.

Chinese media reported Sunday that students at several universities were hit, blocking access to their thesis papers and dissertation presentations.

There are apprehensions that a second wave of the attack may arrive Monday as employees return and switch on affected computers.

Two security firms - Kaspersky Lab and Avast - said they identified the malicious software in more than 70 countries.

Marketing and communications consultant Anat Miron, who has worked with the cyber industry for 17 years, said, "It was interesting to following the activity at the end of last week of the Israel CERT, which hastened to respond to the events responsibly and professionally".

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"Later we found out that the domain was supposed to be unregistered and the malware was counting on this, thus by registering it we inadvertently stopped any subsequent infections", @MalwareTechBlog told CNNTech. An unidentified young cybersecurity researcher claimed to help halt WannaCry's spread by activating a so-called "kill switch".

"Right now, just about every IT department has been working all weekend rolling this out", Dan Wire, spokesman at Fireeye Security, said.

The ransomware exploited a vulnerability that has been patched in updates of recent versions of Windows since March, but Microsoft didn't make freely available the patch for Windows XP and other older systems.

The Chinese online security company Qihoo 360 issued a warning about the virus, saying that many networks there had been hit and that some computers used to mine Bitcoin in China were among those infected.

Microsoft distributed a patch two months ago that could have forestalled much of the attack, but in many organizations it was likely lost among the blizzard of updates and patches that large corporations and governments strain to manage.

"Now you probably can't picture a grown man jumping around with the excitement of having just been "ransomwared", but this was me", he said in a blog post. "But there are so many things to patch".

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