Cyber attack is biggest of its kind ever launched, say security chiefs

RANSOMWARE

The attack is unique, according to Europol, because it combines ransomware with a worm function, meaning once one machine is infected, the entire internal network is scanned and other vulnerable machines are infected.

The global malware attack has reached Australians, the government confirmed.

"I'm anxious about how the numbers will continue to grow when people go to work and turn on their machines on Monday", he said.

Cyber security experts predict that the scope of the attack could expand as people return to work and resume their work on computers, CNN reported on Monday.

A Jakarta hospital said on Sunday that the cyber virus had infected 400 computers, disrupting the registration of patients and finding records.

As almost 45 NHS organisations from London to Scotland were hit in the "ransomware" attack on Friday, patients of the state-funded countrywide service faced chaos as appointments and surgeries had to be cancelled.

Marin Ivezic, cyber security partner at PwC, said that some clients had been "working around the clock since the story broke" to restore systems and install software updates, or patches, or restore systems from backups.

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"We've not seen a wave of new attacks since Friday, but what's likely to happen tomorrow is that organisations that didn't know they were affected on Friday might find that out tomorrow".

The attack held users hostage by freezing their computers, encrypting their data and demanding money through online bitcoin payment - $300 at first, rising to $600 before it destroys files hours later.

"We haven't fully dodged this bullet at all until we're patched against the vulnerability itself", Kalember said.

Anti-virus experts Symantec said the majority of organisations affected were in Europe.

Experts and governments alike warn against ceding to the demands and Wainwright said few victims so far had been paying up.

Dr Krishna Chinthapalli, a neurology registrar at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London, had warned that an increasing number of hospitals could be shut down by ransomeware attacks in an article on the vulnerability of the NHS network in the "British Medical Journal" on Wednesday, two days before the major cyber-hack.

It locks down computers by exploiting a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows software.

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"Unlike most other attacks, this malware is spreading primarily by direct infection from machine to machine on local networks, rather than purely by email", said Lance Cottrell, chief scientist at the US technology group Ntrepid.

The effects were so widespread that Microsoft even took the "highly unusual" step of releasing security updates for out of date operating systems like Windows XP and Vista.

Hong Kong-based Ivezic said that the ransomware was forcing some more "mature" clients affected by the worm to abandon their usual cautious testing of patches "to do unscheduled downtime and urgent patching, which is causing some inconvenience". Some staff had been forced to revert to pen and paper and use their own mobiles after the attack affected key systems, including telephones.

But MalwareTech said sinkholing would only stop the spread until hackers removed the domain check and tried again.

The massive ransomware attacks that started late Friday have locked people out of their computers and demanded hundreds of dollars from the users before they could regain control.

It is understood that the cyber-attack was executed upon a number of the NSA cyber-security exploits and tools, leaked to the public last month.

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