Where the global cyberattack has hit hardest

A global cyber attack leveraging hacking tools believed to have been developed by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) has infected tens of thousands of computers in almost 100 countries, disrupting Britain's health system and global shipper FedEx.

Security software firm Avast reported an increase in the malware's activity on Friday, and said that it had "quickly escalated into a massive spreading".

The ransomware encrypted data on the computers, demanding payments of US$300 ($437) to US$600 to restore access. Both said Russian Federation was hit hardest.

The researcher, tweeting as @MalwareTechBlog, said that the discovery was accidental, but that registering a domain name used by the malware stops it from spreading.

"We are on a downward slope, the infections are extremely few, because the malware is not able to connect to the registered domain", Vikram Thakur, principal research manager at Symantec, said as the threat subsided. "The numbers are extremely low and coming down fast". Those who have Windows Update enabled are protected against attacks on this vulnerability. "Appropriate economy-wide policy responses are needed", the ministers said in their draft statement, seen by Reuters. Security experts say this attack should wake up every corporate board room and legislative chamber around the globe. "Things could likely emerge on May 15". South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported a university hospital had been affected, while a communications official in Indonesia said two hospitals there had been affected.

Britain's National Cyber Security Center says teams are working "round the clock" to restore hospital computer systems after a global cyberattack that hit dozens of countries forced British hospitals to cancel and delay treatment for patients. Worldwide shipper FedEx Corp said some of its Windows computers were also infected.

According to various reports, globally, large firms such as Spain's telecom operator Telefonica, and logistics company FedEx have been affected by the cyber attack.

But those attacks - blamed on Russian Federation, which has repeatedly denied them - followed a different modus operandi involving penetrating the accounts of individuals and political organisations and then releasing hacked material online.

As part of its best practices to prevent ransomware attacks, CERT-In has advised users and organisations to maintain an updated antivirus software, regularly check for integrity of the information stored on databases, to not open attachments in unsolicited e-mails, restrict users' ability to install and run unwanted software applications, among various others.

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Now that this "WannaCry" malware is out there, the world's computer systems are vulnerable to a degree they haven't been before, unless people everywhere move quickly to install Microsoft's security patches.

Avast, an global security software firm that claims it has 400 million users worldwide, said the ransomware attacks rose rapidly Saturday to a peak of 57,000 detected intrusions.

Cybersecurity professionals have been working overtime the past 24 hours as one of the largest ransomware attacks ever recorded managed to affect the systems of nearly 100 countries.

The ransomware is spread by taking advantage of a Windows vulnerability that Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30) released a security patch for in March.

"This attack was not specifically targeted at the NHS and is affecting organisations from across a range of sectors", NHS Digital, the computer arm of the health service, said in a statement.

The malware's name is WCry, but analysts were also using variants such as WannaCry. On May 10, hackers disrupted the websites of several French media companies and aerospace giant Airbus.The hack happened four weeks before a British general election in which national security and the management of the state-run National Health Service are important issues.

It remained unclear how many organizations had already lost control of their data to the malicious software - and researchers warned that copycat attacks could follow.

"Unlike most other attacks, this malware is spreading primarily by direct infection from machine to machine on local networks, rather than purely by email", said Lance Cottrell, chief scientist at the United States technology group Ntrepid.

Europol has warned that a "complex global investigation" is required to identify the "culprits" behind the recent "unprecedented" cyber-attack which targeted a multitude of worldwide organizations. The interior ministry said about 1,000 computers had been infected but it had localised the virus. "And some of them may not be well prepared for such attacks", Chris Camacho, chief strategy officer with cyber intelligence firm Flashpoint, said.

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