Cyberattack havoc could grow as work week begins

"I am anxious about how the numbers will continue to grow when people go to work and turn their machines on Monday morning".

Regardless of which operating system you run, you should install any and all available security updates immediately.

Indeed, while FedEx Corp. reported that its Windows computers were "experiencing interference" from malware - it wouldn't say if it had been hit by the ransomware - other impacts in the US were not readily apparent on Saturday.

The Japan Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center said 2,000 computers in Japan were reported affected so far, citing an affiliate foreign security organization that it can not identify.

An unidentified young cybersecurity researcher claimed to help halt WannaCry's spread by activating a so-called "kill switch".

The attack held users hostage by freezing their computers, encrypting their data and demanding money through online bitcoin payment - $300 at first, rising to $600 before it destroys files hours later.

The WannaCry or WannaCrypt ransomware attack deployed a Windows exploit that the National Security Agency had used for its own purposes until it was leaked in April by the hacking group Shadow Brokers.

Russia's interior ministry said 1,000 of its computers had been infected but the virus was swiftly dealt with and no sensitive data was compromised.

Suiche said the cyberattackers could soon release a new update to the malware, making it more robust and resuming the global infection. WannaCry's creators were able to borrow these weaponized tools to launch the attack.

Companies around the globe are preparing for an imminent cyber attack as the offices re-open on Monday, media reports said.

"We are not out of the woods yet", said Gary Davis, chief consumer security evangelist at McAfee, the global computer security software company in Santa Clara, California.

Organisations were discouraged from paying the ransom, as it was not guaranteed that access would be restored.

The ransomware is a type of malicious software that infects a computer and restricts users' access to it until a ransom is paid to unlock it. The cyberextortion attack hitting dozens of countries was a "perfect storm" of sorts. Hackers said they stole the tools from the NSA and dumped them on the internet.

A security update was released by Microsoft in March to protect against the virus.

The patches are now available for the old Windows XP operating system as well as Windows 8 and Server 2003. A 22-year old security researcher in the United Kingdom discovered a "kill-switch" to initially stop the spread of the attack.

Brad Smith criticized US intelligence agencies, including the CIA and National Security Agency, for "stockpiling" software code that can be used by hackers. Since Friday, the company dropped its refusal to update old versions of its programs and issued patches specifically written for use in Windows XP and several other systems.

The worldwide effort to extort cash from computer users is so unprecedented in its nature - the first widely successful example of ransomware that self-replicates like a virus - that Microsoft quickly changed its policy, announcing free security patches to fix this vulnerability in the older Windows systems still used by millions of individuals and smaller businesses. "But there's clearly some culpability on the part of the USA intelligence services".

Governments "need to take a different approach and adhere in cyberspace to the same rules applied to weapons in the physical world", Smith says, urging agencies to "consider the damage to civilians that comes from hoarding these vulnerabilities and the use of these exploits". They were installing software to fix the problems.

  • Carolyn Briggs