What is WannaCry ransomware?

Experts advise computer users to backup their files, not pay the ransom, install antivirus and update their software's ransomware removal tools.

In the USA, "the list of victims is very small", a Department of Homeland Security official tells NPR, noting that it's still relatively early in the WannaCry attack.

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".

The attack started on Friday and is reportedly the largest online extortion ever.

Backing up data, Symantec adds, "is the single most effect way of combating ransomware infection".

But Scott Vernick, a data security lawyer at Fox Rothschild that represents companies, said he was sceptical that WannaCry would produce a flood of consumer lawsuits.

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The Japan Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center, a non-profit group, said 2,000 computers at 600 locations in Japan were affected. It was benign because it contained a flaw that prevented it from taking over computers and demanding ransom to unlock files but other more malicious ones will likely pop up. "I think today we found out that those who really want to hurt us have begun to, because they became cyber-capable the moment that the NSA cybertools were released".

State media said 29,372 institutions in China had been infected, along with hundreds of thousands of devices.

"This attack provides yet another example of why the stockpiling of vulnerabilities by governments is such a problem", he said.

All the cases reported so far involve fragmented, and isolated systems or standalone machines, she stressed. "WannaCry has the ability to spread itself within corporate networks, without user interaction, by exploiting a known vulnerability in Microsoft Windows". "An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the US military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen", Smith said. Once they get the money, the systems have been accessible to its users.

"The reason this ransomware is so aggressive is because older versions of software don't have the latest security patches and it was able to roll right through these various networks".

"The WannaCrypt exploits used in the attack were drawn from the exploits stolen from the National Security Agency", Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith says. But we note that it's no accident that the expert, who prefers to remain anonymous and uses the name Malware Tech, registered a domain name that was called out in the code and used it to stop the worm from spreading. They say the person, or persons, behind all of this was not very experienced. But computers and networks that didn't update their systems are still at risk. Just as important as having the software installed is making sure you regularly update your security software or enable automatic updates. Don't click on links that you don't recognize, nor download files from people you don't know personally. But they made it pretty easy to follow the money: WannaCry's code contained the addresses of three Bitcoin wallets.

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