Huge, Unprecedented Ransomware Attack Hits Around the Globe

Chris Doman, a researcher at the cyber security firm AlienVault, added: "The NHS is particularly vulnerable to ransomware as they have critical systems with patchwork security".

How many countries were affected?

As part of the efforts to combat the attack, Microsoft, whose Windows software lies at the heart of the potential hacking vulnerability, released a software update available to those affected by the attack and others that could be potential targets.

Security agencies worldwide are working frantically to identify the culprits behind the attack and bring them to justice.

Two security firms - Kaspersky Lab and Avast - said they had identified the malicious software behind the attack in upward of 70 countries, although both said the attack has hit Russian Federation hardest. It stopped spreading because the malware's author hardcoded what is essentially a kill switch into the ransomware, just in case he ever wanted to stop it from spreading.

The government 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. It's likely that things will get worse before they get better. Soon after the attack occurred, a researcher registered a domain which the malware seems to ping before infection.

The notorious WannaCry ransomware, which has recently haunted computers around the globe, struck a local movie chain, industry watchers said Monday, causing alarm among South Korean companies.

But MalwareTech said sinkholing would only stop the spread until hackers removed the domain check and tried again. The Beijing News said that students at several universities around the country reported being hit by the virus, which blocked access to their thesis papers and dissertation presentations.

Microsoft said the situation was "painful" and that it was taking "all possible actions to protect our customers".

In the U.S., FedEx reported that its Windows computers were "experiencing interference" from malware, but wouldn't say if it had been hit by ransomware. As he explained in a blog post, MalwareTech acquired a sample of the malware on Friday and ran it a virtual environment. "However, they chose not to tell Microsoft about it".

NHS Digital says the attack "was not specifically targeted at the NHS and is affecting organizations from across a range of sectors". "And as of now I've had a fair bit of thanks from different people which is really appreciated, but no job offers which is nice as I'm happy where I am". "In short, it has a lot of computers and at least some of them weren't able to withstand an attack like this".

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