At least 74 countries affected in 'biggest ever' cyber attack

ANSSI has been investigating a hacking attack and document leaks targeting French President-elect Emmanuel Macron's election campaign.

The attack infected computers with what is known as "ransomware", software that locks up the user's data and flashes a message demanding payment to release it.

He said many NHS hospitals in Britain use Windows XP software, introduced in 2001, and as government funding for the health service has been squeezed "IT budgets are often one of the first ones to be reduced". Mikko Hypponen, its chief research officer, calls it "the biggest ransomware outbreak in history".

Researchers believe a criminal organization is behind this, given its sophistication.

Its ransom demands start at $300 and increase after two hours to $400, $500 and then $600, said Kurt Baumgartner, a security researcher at Kaspersky Lab.

Spokeswoman Irina Volk was quoted by the Interfax news agency Saturday as saying the problem had been "localized" and that no information was compromised. She said the ministry's servers haven't been affected.

The researcher, tweeting as @MalwareTechBlog, said the discovery was accidental, but that registering a domain name used by the malware stops it from spreading. The committee denied the reports. Although Microsoft released fixes in March, the attackers counted on many organizations not getting around to applying those fixes.

Microsoft usually charges a hefty fee to provide custom support for older versions of Windows - something that the United Kingdom government thought it could do without. The attacks use a malware called Wanna Decryptor, also known as WannaCry. Officials urged organizations and companies to immediately update their security software. Most of the attacks are happening in Russian Federation, according to the organization.

Europol's European Cybercrime Centre, EC3, said in a statement today that the attack was "at an unprecedented level and will require a complex global investigation to identify the culprits".

The spokesman, Jan Op Gen Oorth, declined to give further details Friday so as not to jeopardize the ongoing investigations.

Cybersecurity experts said that the malware arrived through "phishing" attacks in which recipients of emails were tricked into opening phony links.

Forcepoint Security Labs said in a statement that the attack had "global scope" and was affecting networks in Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Mexico. The committee, the nation's top investigative agency, has rejected the claim.

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It said Sunday that a similar cyberattack could also recur, though it did not have "specific evidence" of this. It also scans the infected system's settings to work out the user's language, and pulls up a ransom demand in the correct lingo for the victim.

The ransomware worm dubbed WannaCry that locked up more than 200,000 computers in more than 150 countries had slowed, but cybersecurity experts said the respite might only be brief.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, at a meeting of world leaders in Italy, said the attack was a reminder of the importance of cybersecurity.

Updating computer operating systems when prompted and maintaining up-to-date software is the best bet against ransomware attacks.

"Given the potential impact to customers and their businesses, we made the decision to make the security update for platforms in custom support only, Windows XP, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2003, broadly available".

Spain, meanwhile, activated a special protocol to protect critical infrastructure in response to the "massive infection" of personal and corporate computers in ransomware attacks. Those who are running our free antivirus software and have Windows Update enabled, are protected.

Delivery company FedEx has confirmed it is suffering a malware attack.

Also, the hack happened four weeks before a British general election in which national security and the management of the state-run National Health Service (NHS) are important issues. But computers and networks that hadn't updated their systems were still at risk. Otherwise they're literally fighting the problems of the present with tools from the past.

But as this attack demonstrates, there is no cause for celebration.

At least 16 organisations within the NHS, some of them responsible for several hospitals each, reported being targeted. Last year, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles paid $17,000 to unlock files after an attack crippled a large portion of its computer systems. Many canceled all routine procedures and asked patients not to come to the hospital unless it was an emergency. We take every single cyberattack on a Windows system seriously, and we've been working around the clock since Friday to help all our customers who have been affected by this incident.

A spokesman for Barts Health NHS Trust in London said it was experiencing "major IT disruption" and delays at all four of its hospitals.

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