Sun, May 14, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Attack affects computer systems worldwide

HOSPITALS, SCHOOLS:Splunk director of threat research Rich Barger said: ‘This is one of the largest global ransomware attacks the cybercommunity has ever seen’

Reuters and AP, LONDON and MADRID

An electronic display calls on people to watch the analogue timetable at a railway station in Frankfurt, Germany, yesterday after a cyberattack affected railway operator Deutsche Bahn.

Photo: AP

A global cyberattack leveraging hacking tools believed to have been developed by the US National Security Agency (NSA) infected tens of thousands of computers in nearly 100 countries, including Taiwan, disrupting Britain’s health system and global shipper FedEx.

Extortionists tricked people into opening malware attachments to spam e-mails that appeared to contain invoices, job offers, security warnings and other legitimate files.

The ransomware encrypted data on the computers, demanding payments of US$300 to US$600 to restore access.

Security researchers said they observed some people paying via the digital currency bitcoin, although they did not know what percent had given in to the extortionists.

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

Asian countries reported no major breaches yesterday, but officials in the region were scrambling to check and the full extent of the damage might not be known for some time.

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

The most disruptive attacks were reported in Britain, where hospitals and clinics were forced to turn away patients after losing access to computers on Friday.

International shipper FedEx Corp said some of its Windows computers were also infected.

“We are implementing remediation steps as quickly as possible,” FedEx said in a statement.

Only a small number of US-headquartered organizations were hit, because the hackers appear to have begun the campaign by targeting organizations in Europe, said Vikram Thakur, research manager with security software maker Symantec.

By the time they turned their attention to the US, spam filters had identified the new threat and flagged the ransomware-laden e-mails as malicious, Thakur said.

Infections of the worm appeared to have fallen off significantly after a security researcher bought a domain that the malware was connecting to, by chance undermining its effectiveness.

“The numbers are extremely low and coming down fast,” he said, but added that any change in the original code could lead to another flare up.

The US Department of Homeland Security said late on Friday that it was aware of reports of the ransomware, was sharing information with domestic and foreign partners, and was ready to lend technical support.

Telecom company Telefonica was among many targets in Spain, though it said the attack was limited to some computers on an internal network and had not affected clients or services.

Portugal Telecom and Telefonica Argentina both said they were also targeted.

Private security firms identified the ransomware as a new variant of “WannaCry” that had the ability to automatically spread across large networks by exploiting a known bug in Microsoft’s Windows operating system.

The hackers, who have not come forward to claim responsibility or otherwise been identified, likely made it a “worm,” or self-spreading malware, by exploiting a piece of NSA code known as “Eternal Blue” that was released last month by a group known as the Shadow Brokers, researchers with several private cybersecurity firms said.

“This is one of the largest global ransomware attacks the cybercommunity has ever seen,” said Rich Barger, director of threat research with Splunk, one of the firms that linked WannaCry to the NSA.

This story has been viewed 14191 times.

Comments will be moderated. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned.

TOP top