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After Ukraine, new computer virus Petya attacks businesses around the world, NATO sees this as danger to member countries

After Ukraine, new computer virus Petya attacks businesses around the world, NATO sees this as danger to member countriesRisk-modeling firm Cyence said economic losses from this week's attack and one last month from the virus would likely total $8 billion.

The virus wreaked havoc on firms around the globe on Wednesday as it spread, disrupting ports from Mumbai to Los Angeles and halting work at a chocolate factory in Australia, according to Reuters.

The malicious code encrypted data on machines and demanded victims $300 ransoms for recovery, similar to the extortion tactic used in the global WannaCry ransomware attack in May.

Security experts said they believed that the goal was to disrupt computer systems across Ukraine, not extortion, saying the attack used powerful wiping software that made it impossible to recover lost data.

"It was a wiper disguised as ransomware. They had no intention of obtaining money from the attack," said Tom Kellermann, chief executive of Strategic Cyber Ventures.

Brian Lord, a former official with Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) who is now managing director at private security firm PGI Cyber, said he believed the campaign was an "experiment" in using ransomware to cause destruction.

"This starts to look like a state operating through a proxy," he said.

The target of the campaign appeared to be Ukraine, an enemy of Russia that has suffered two cyber-attacks on its power grid that it has blamed on Moscow.

ESET, a Slovakian cyber-security software firm, said 80 percent of the infections detected among its global customer base were in Ukraine, followed by Italy with about 10 percent.

Kaspersky Lab said Wednesday that the new ransomware attack that started a day ago "is likely to grow even more," the Global Times said.

"The attack appears to be complex, involving several attack vectors," according to the posting. "We can confirm that a modified EternalBlue exploit is used for propagation, at least within corporate networks", Kaspersky Lab said.

The Kremlin, which has consistently rejected the accusations, said on Wednesday it had no information about the origin of the attack, which also struck Russian companies including oil giant Rosneft.

German email service provider Posteo has already shut down the email address that victims were supposed to use to contact blackmailers and send Bitcoins, and from which they would receive decryption keys; therefore, with the email address blocked, victims won't be able to pay the criminals or get their files back.

In response to the Petya attacks that began in Ukraine, NATO is helping the country to improve its cyber defences. Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the collective defence articles could be invoked in the face of a cyber attack, ZDNet reported.

Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty states an attack on one NATO member is consdiered an attack on all.

"We have also decided that a cyber attack can trigger Article 5 and we have also decided -- and we are in the process of establishing -- cyber as a military domain, meaning that we will have land, air, sea, and cyber as military domains," he said. "All of this highlights the advantage of being an alliance of 29 allies because we can work together, strengthen each other, and learn from each other."

"NATO has established a trust fund for cyber defence where we finance the programs, the activities we do," he said. "I think that the cyber attacks we have seen this week very much highlight the importance of the support, the help NATO ... provides to Ukraine to strengthen its cyber defences, technical and other kinds of support.

"We will continue to do that and it's an important part of our cooperation with Ukraine."

The Secretary General said NATO was strengthening its own networks and those of its allies, and was conducting more exercises in the cyber domain.

A day after the Petya outbreak began, at least 2,000 attacks have been recorded in over 64 countries.
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