Log in, look out: Cyber chaos spreads with workweek's start

Padlock on a computer keyboard

The CERT-In has advised users and organisations to apply patches to Windows systems as mentioned in Microsoft Security Bulletin MS17-010.

USA 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. Railway stations, mail delivery, gas stations, hospitals, office buildings, shopping malls and government services were also said to be affected.

Experts are concerned that more malware infections will be discovered on Monday when workers return from the weekend to their jobs. "We don't have a large number of victims right now, and we, for the most part, are not seeing significant operational impacts for those who have been victimized".

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

Monday marked the fourth day a cyber attack known as "WannaCry" held hostage hundreds of thousands of computers all over the world with the intent of collecting money in exchange for retrieving files and data that become locked and inaccessible, supposedly unless a ransom is paid.

The warning was echoed by Britain's National Cyber Security Centre: "As a new working week begins it is likely, in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, that further cases of ransomware may come to light, possibly at a significant scale". If you don't pay within three days, the amount increases to $600.

Bitcoin, the world's most-used virtual currency, allows anonymous transactions via heavily encrypted codes.

But experts and government officials alike warn against giving in to the hackers' demands.

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Moscow-based cyber security firm Kaspersky Lab revealed in its 2016 Corporate IT Security Risks Survey that 19% of businesses in South Africa experienced ransomware attacks in the preceding 12 months. WannaCry reportedly used an infection vector developed by the US National Security Agency.

In a blog post published on Sunday, Brad Smith, Microsoft's president and chief legal officer, called out the US government for "stockpiling" vulnerabilities, noting that the WannaCry malware used in the attack was stolen from the NSA and published by hackers.

He argued there should be "a new requirement for governments to report vulnerabilities to vendors, rather than stockpile, sell, or exploit them". "An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the US military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen".

"Governments of the world should treat this attack as a wake-up call", Smith wrote."They need to take a different approach and adhere in cyberspace to the same rules applied to weapons in the physical world".

Instead it has asked anyone affected by the attack to report such instances to CERT-In and law enforcement agencies.

Chris Camacho, chief strategy officer at the cybersecurity firm Flashpoint, told ABC News that health care companies were particularly ripe for ransomware attacks like this one because patient records are so critical to care.

In Japan, companies such as Hitachi and Nissan reported problems but said their operations had not been seriously affected.

French auto maker Renault, which halted production at some factories to stop the virus from spreading, said 90% of factories worldwide had now resumed operations, according to a spokesman on Monday.

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