Files held to ransom by WannaCry: extent of cyber attack to be revealed

Files held to ransom by WannaCry: extent of cyber attack to be revealed

The scale of last Friday’s cyber attack will be fully realised when millions around the world go back to work

Photo: MalwareTips

Photo: MalwareTips

The scale of last Friday’s cyber attack will be fully realised when millions around the world go back to work on Monday.

Having hit more than 150 countries and infected hundreds of thousands of machines, Europol has labelled the WannaCry attack “unprecedented”. Russia was by far the worst hit, with attacks also reported by the UK’s public health system, Germany’s railway network and Spanish telecommunications giant Telefonica.

WannaCry, a computer worm believed to be derived from a leaked NSA tool, was delivered as an email attachment; once opened, the worm replicated itself and spread to other vulnerable Windows machines. Users of these machines had their files encrypted and a $300 bitcoin ransom demanded for their release.

While the spread of the worm was slowed considerably when a 22-year-old computer researcher inadvertently stumbled across a kill switch, experts warn another similar attack could be launched with relative ease.

The attack highlights the gaping vulnerabilities in the systems of key institutions, spurring calls for increased vigilance as cyber attacks become increasingly common.