First Australian business infected in global cyber attack

A huge extortion cyber attack had hit dozens of nations yesterday, holding computer data for ransom at hospitals, telecommunications firms and other companies.

Europol says Friday's cyberattack hit 200,000 victims in 150-plus countries and warned there may be many more.

Some organizations are more vulnerable to intrusion because they use older or outdated operating systems, usually due to the cost of upgrading software or buying modern hardware needed to install better-protected operating systems.

British Prime Minister Theresa May weighed in, "Europol has said that it is unprecedented in terms of the scale of the cyber-attack that has taken place". The technology has been "increasingly rampant since 2014", the study says, though the concept goes back to 1989, "when PC-locking malcode was snail-mailed to victims on floppy disks".

Government of India on Sunday said it has activated a "preparedness and response mechanism" to prevent any major cyber attack from a new ransomware - "Wannacry" - which has infected computer systems around the world.

The government warned NHS trusts in 2014 that they needed to move away from XP as rapidly as possible. "We haven't fully dodged this bullet at all until we're patched against the vulnerability itself".

Images appear on victims' screens demanding payment of US$300 (275 euros) in the virtual currency Bitcoin, saying: "Ooops, your files have been encrypted!"

He said it was too early to say who was behind the onslaught and what their motivation was, aside from the obvious demand for money. So far, he said, not many people have paid the ransom demanded by the malware.

United States package delivery giant FedEx, European auto factories, Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica, Britain's health service and Germany's Deutsche Bahn rail network were among those hit.

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"The ransomware also spreads through malicious attachments to emails", it said.

The WannaCry malware is created to check a gobbledygook web address and shut down if it gets a response - which one researcher managed to do last week. The server operates as a "sinkhole" to collect information about malware - and in Friday's case kept the malware from escaping.

"If you have anything to patch, patch it", the researcher said in a blog post.

"And we've got to make sure, at a departmental level, government level, departmental heads. that they're taking the necessary steps", he told Sky.

The WannaCry malware exploits a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows that was reportedly developed and used by the U.S. National Security Agency.

The virus exploits a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows software, first identified by the US National Security Agency, experts have said. But many users did not apply the software patch, AP reported.

A security update - or patch - was released by Microsoft in March to protect against the virus, but it appears many NHS organisations had not applied it or were using an older version of the operating system no longer supported - namely Windows XP.

Industry reports indicate Russia, Taiwan, Ukraine and Britain were among the countries hit hardest, and more hacking reports can be expected when offices reopen for the new workweek Monday or, in some parts of the world, Sunday. "They are processing a lot of sensitive data".

"It's important to understand that cyber attacks can be different from other forms of crime in that their sometimes highly technical and anonymous nature means it can take some time to understand how it worked, who was behind it and what the impact is", he told the BBC.

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