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Fresh barrage of cyber attacks set to hit today

19 May, 2017, 10:52 | Author: Nadine Todd

"It is important to understand that the way these attacks work means that compromises of machines and networks that have already occurred may not yet have been detected, and that existing infections from the malware can spread within networks", said the U.K.'s National Cyber Security Centre in a statement Sunday.

The attack is believed to be the biggest online extortion scheme ever recorded.

A security researcher from the UK "MalwareTech" who assisted in minimizing the effect of recent ransomware predicts that one more ransomware is on its way and could affect a huge number of PCs on Monday.

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".

In remarks released on Sunday, Brigadier General Jalali pointed to the massive cyber attack and said the ransomware has spread from the NSA and was used on objective. It demands users pay United States dollars 300 worth of cryptocurrency Bitcoin to retrieve their files, though it warns that the payment will be raised after a certain amount of time.

Tens of thousands of computer were "locked" - the screens displaying the telltale ransom demand. "Expect to hear a lot more about this tomorrow morning, when users are back in their offices and might fall for phishing", said Singapore-based security researcher Christian Karam.

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

An exterior view shows the main entrance of St Bartholomew's Hospital, in London, one of the hospitals whose computer systems were affected by a cyberattack, Friday, May 12, 2017.

He said Russian Federation and India were hit particularly hard, largely because Microsoft's Windows XP - one of the operating systems most at risk - was still widely used there.

He said the malware strike had been shut off "temporarily", but added: "There is no reason why the attacker won't come back and decide to pull another one on us all".

That's why companies are anxious to beef up security or combat potential infections, according to Aviv Grafi, the chief technology officer of Votiro, another cybersecurity firm. Russia's Health Ministry said its attacks were "effectively repelled".

It issued guidance for people to protect their systems, while taking the highly unusual step of reissuing security patches first made available in March for Windows XP and other older versions of its operating system.

"At the moment, we are in the face of an escalating threat".

Other targets in Europe included Telefonica, the Spanish telecom giant; the French carmaker Renault, which halted production at some factories to stop the virus from spreading; and a local authority in Sweden, which said about 70 computers were infected.

"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. Deutsche Bahn, Germany's national railway service, tweeted that its train service had not been compromised and that it was working full speed to solve the problems.

On Sunday, Chinese media reported that students at several universities were hit by the virus, which blocked access to their thesis papers and their dissertation presentations.

"Scottish Government health officials are now working closely with affected boards to assess the extent of the problem, and take steps to isolate affected systems, which have been affected by a Ransomware cyber-attack of the kind which has also affected health trusts in NHS England".

Mr MacGibbon said people should also be backing up their data on a USB or disk that is kept separate and not connected to their computer.

The researcher, tweeting as @MalwareTechBlog, said registering a domain name used by the malware stops it from spreading, though it can not help computers already affected.

"It's this constant battle", said Ryan O'Leary, vice president of WhiteHat Security's threat research center. "Now I should probably sleep". New versions of the worm are expected, the experts said, and the extent - and economic cost - of the damage from Friday's attack were unclear.

Special adviser to the Prime Minister on Cyber Security Alastair MacGibbon said the first thing Australians should do when they get in to work on Monday is update their Microsoft software.

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