Source CNN. – Hospitals, major companies and government offices have been hit by a massive wave of cyberattacks across the globe that seize control of computers until the victims pay a ransom.
Cybersecurity firm Avast said it had identified more than 75,000 ransomware attacks in 99 countries, making it one of the broadest and most damaging cyberattacks in history.
Europol said Saturday that the attack was of an “unprecedented level and requires international investigation.”
The ransomware, called “WannaCry,” locks down all the files on an infected computer and asks the computer’s administrator to pay in order to regain control of them. The exploit was leaked last month as part of a trove of NSA spy tools.
The ransomware is spread by taking advantage of a Windows vulnerability that Microsoft (Tech30) released a security patch for in March. But computers and networks that hadn’t updated their systems were still at risk.,
In the wake of the attack, Microsoft said it had taken the “highly unusual step” of releasing a patch for computers running older operating systems including Windows XP, Windows 8 and Windows Server 2003.
“Affected machines have six hours to pay up and every few hours the ransom goes up,” said Kurt Baumgartner, the principal security researcher at security firm Kaspersky Lab. “Most folks that have paid up appear to have paid the initial $300 in the first few hours.”
Sixteen National Health Service (NHS) organizations in the UK have been hit, and some of thosehospitals have canceled outpatient appointments and told people to avoid emergency departments if possible. The NHS said in a statement on Saturday that there was no evidence that patient information had been compromised.
In China, the internet security company Qihoo360 issued a “red alert” saying that a large number of colleges and students in the country had been affected by the ransomware, which is also referred to as “WannaCrypt.” State media reported that digital payment systems at PetroChina gas stations were offline, forcing customers to pay cash.
“Global internet security has reached a moment of emergency,” Qihoo360 warned.
Spanish telecom company Telefónica (confirmed the ransomware is spreading through the vulnerability, called “EternalBlue,” and advised people to patch.) was also hit with the ransomware. Spanish authorities
“It is going to spread far and wide within the internal systems of organizations — this is turning into the biggest cybersecurity incident I’ve ever seen,” U.K.-based security architect Kevin Beaumont said.