Published: Thu, May 18, 2017
IT&Software | By Jimmie Castillo

Aussie businesses confirmed affected by global ransomware attack: gov't


This is already believed to be the biggest online extortion attack ever recorded, disrupting computers that run factories, banks, government agencies and transport systems in nations as diverse as the US, Russia, Ukraine, Brazil, Spain and India.

"The recent attack is at an unprecedented level and will require a complex global investigation to identify the culprits", said Europol, Europe's policing agency.

Europol said a special task force at its European Cybercrime Centre was "specially created to assist in such investigations and will play an important role in supporting the investigation".

The indiscriminate attack was unleashed Friday, striking hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide by exploiting known vulnerabilities in older Microsoft computer operating systems.

Victims were asked for payment of $300 (275 euros) in the virtual currency Bitcoin.

"What I can say though - we're not talking about a government organisation or a hospital or anything like that".

Experts and officials offered differing estimates of the scope of the attacks, but all agreed it was huge.

"At the moment we are in the face of an escalating threat, the numbers are going up, I am anxious about how the numbers will continue to grow when people go to work and turn their machines on Monday morning", he told ITV's Peston On Sunday. That move, which cost just $10.69, redirected the attacks to the server of Kryptos Logic, the security company where he works.

Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, including Torbay and Newton Abbot Hospitals, was not affected by the attack.

The companies and government agencies targeted were diverse.

Carmaker Renault said one of its French plants, which employs 3,500 people, wasn't reopening Monday as a "preventative step".

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

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Deutsche Bahn: The German railway company told CNNMoney that due to the attack "passenger information displays in some stations were inoperative" as were "some ticket machines".

Shanghai's Fudan University received reports that a large number of school computers were infected with the virus.

FedEx: The company said it was "experiencing interference with some of our Windows-based systems caused by malware" and was trying to fix the problems as quickly as possible.

A cybersecurity researcher in Britain managed to slow down its spread by activating the software's "kill switch", but there were fears that the cybercriminals would release even more malicious versions.

It said the ransomware called "WannaCry" or "WannaCrypt" encrypts the computer's hard disk drive and then spreads laterally between computers on the same local area network (LAN).

"You are dealing with a criminal", he said.

A hacking group called Shadow Brokers released the malware in April, claiming to have discovered the flaw from the NSA, Kaspersky said.

If you do, this message will pop up on your screen, demanding money to get your files back while infecting other computers on the same network.

Meanwhile G7 finance ministers meeting in Italy vowed to unite against cyber crime, as it represented a growing threat to their economies and should be tackled as a priority. The danger will be discussed at the G7 leaders' summit next month.

United States package delivery giant FedEx, European vehicle factories, Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica, Britain's health service and Germany's Deutsche Bahn rail network were among those hit.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop previously said authorities were working to validate if reports of cyber attacks in the country were linked to the global attack.

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