Governments Must Treat Cyber Attack as 'Wake-Up Call — Microsoft President

Whoever is behind the attack could update the ransomware and remove the kill switch. The WannaCry software has locked thousands of computers in more than 150 countries.

However, there is no clarity yet on whether access is restored upon payment of the amount demanded. "And this most recent attack represents a completely unintended but disconcerting link between the two most serious forms of cybersecurity threats in the world today - nation-state action and organized criminal action". The software responsible is called WannaCry (also known as Wanna Decryptor) and it takes over your computer until a ransom is paid, CNN reported.

In the US, "the list of victims is very small", a Department of Homeland Security official tells NPR, noting that it's still relatively early in the WannaCry attack. "I do not know", Kehler said. Reports emerged of hospitals turning away ambulances because they feared being unable to treat patients. However, officials and security firms said the spread was starting to slow.

Businesses and networks across Asia are coping with the first wave of WannaCry during their workweek.

Downing Street acknowledged that five per cent of computer systems in the NHS in England are continuing to use Windows XP despite the Government's decision in 2015 not to renew a £5.5m contract with computer giant Microsoft to provide additional security support for the software.

The malware spreads through email.

You can follow who's affected by watching this live tracking map created by MalwareTech.

French automaker Renault and its partner, Nissan, say their plants were hit by the attack, NBC reports.

The government said its new cyber security policy would be introduced in August and would, among other things, bring all computers in state government offices under the statewide area network (SWAN) the government's internal network. The identity of the culprits remains unknown. The ransomware, called Wanna Decryptor, WCry or WannaCry, targets a Microsoft Windows vulnerability. "An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the US military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen", Smith said. Those who applied critical Microsoft Windows patches released in March were protected against this attack, while those who did not are affected, according to the company. But the success of the attack shows that not enough people took advantage of the patch.

Security solutions providers have also accelerated efforts to develop tools to tide over the crisis.

"Right now, just about every IT department has been working all weekend rolling this out", said Dan Wire, spokesman at Fireeye Security. Several Chinese government bodies, including police and traffic authorities, reported they had been impacted by the hack, according to posts on official microblogs. Here are some quick facts about the WannaCry attack and suggestions for avoiding it.

One person helping coordinate banks' response said they were setting up back-up systems for data and introducing security upgrades.

Experts urged organizations and companies to immediately update older Microsoft operating systems, such as Windows XP, with a patch released by Microsoft limit vulnerability to a more powerful version of the malware - or to future versions that can't be stopped. The best way is to have both an external hard drive for local backups, and an online-backup service to store your data in the cloud should you lose both your computer and the external drive (say, due to fire, flood or theft).

Keep all the software on your computer up-to-date. "You never know that they're going to do what they promise anyway", Wainwright said. And remember that any account can be compromised.

The Conficker worm infected millions of computers including government, business and home computers in over 190 countries.

"Once a machine is infected it will scan the entire internal network and infect other vulnerable machines".

  • Joanne Flowers