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Huge cyberextortion attack hits computers in at least 74 countries

Huge cyberextortion attack hits computers in at least 74 countriesDozens of countries were hit with a huge cyberextortion attack Friday that locked up computers and held users’ files for ransom at a multitude of hospitals, companies, and government agencies.

This is reported by The Associated Press.

It was believed to the biggest attack of its kind ever recorded.

The malicious software behind the onslaught appeared to exploit a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows that was supposedly identified by the National Security Agency for its own intelligence-gathering purposes and was later leaked to the internet.

Several cybersecurity firms said they had identified the malicious software, which so far has been responsible for tens of thousands of attacks, in more than 60 countries.

Security experts said the attack appeared to be caused by a self-replicating piece of software that enters companies and organizations when employees click on email attachments, then spreads quickly internally from computer to computer when employees share documents and other files.

Its ransom demands start at $300 and increase after two hours to $400, $500 and then $600, said Kurt Baumgartner, a security researcher at Kaspersky Lab. Affected users can restore their files from backups, if they have them, or pay the ransom; otherwise they risk losing their data entirely.

By Kaspersky Lab’s count, the malware struck at least 74 countries. In addition to Russia, where Interior Ministry was struck, the biggest targets appeared to be Ukraine and India, nations where it is common to find older, unpatched versions of Windows in use, according to the security firm.

On image: Intel company created an online map showing how computers are being affected all around the world. The spread of WannaCrypt virus (also called WannaCry) began during the day of May 12
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