UK working to restore hospital systems after cyberattack

SAN FRANCISCO (CNNMoney) - Tens of thousands of ransomware attacks are targeting organizations around the

"It is going to spread far and wide within the internal systems of organizations - this is turning into the biggest cybersecurity incident I've ever seen", United Kingdom -based security architect Kevin Beaumont said.

The fast-moving cyberattack swept the globe on Friday, apparently exploiting a flaw exposed in documents leaked from the US National Security Agency.

A malware called Wanna Decryptor was used in the attack, which encrypts files on a user's computer, blocking them from view.

The attack disrupted Britain's health system and companies including carmaker Renault and global shipper FedEx. Written in twenty-eight languages, it has victimized agencies as diverse as the British National Health Service (NHS), the Russian Interior Ministry, Spanish telecom giant Telefonica, and FedEx.

"This is not targeted at the NHS, it's an worldwide attack and a number of countries and organizations have been affected", British Prime Minister Theresa May said.

The interior ministry said on its website that around 1,000 computers had been infected but it had localised the virus.

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 USA were not readily apparent on Saturday. The national railway said it was attacked but operations were unaffected.

It said: "Like many organizations around the world, some Nissan entities were recently targeted by a ransomware attack".

The researcher, tweeting as @MalwareTechBlog, said registering a domain name used by the malware stops it from spreading, though it can not help computers already affected. Computers already affected will not be helped by the solution. "The attackers will realize how we stopped it, they'll change the code and then they'll start again".

"It's unequivocally scary", said John Dickson of the Denim Group, a USA security consultancy.

Cybersecurity experts identified the malware as a variant of the ransomware known as Wcry or WannaCry.

Prime Minister Theresa May said the Government is not aware of any evidence patient records had been compromised.

"Without further technical investigation - it's impossible to say who is behind the attack, but it can be virtually anyone - from a small group of Black Hats seeking profit, to a state-sponsored hacking group", the statement continued.

The NHS, which is an institution that Britons both revere and love to complain about, said it was "working closely with the National Cyber Security Centre, the Department of Health and NHS England to support affected organisations and to recommend appropriate mitigations". But the clock is ticking - the malware threatens to raise the ransom if payment is not made within three days.

The Shadow Brokers released Eternal Blue as part of a trove of hacking tools that they said belonged to the US spy agency.

"Unlike most other attacks, this malware is spreading primarily by direct infection from machine to machine on local networks, rather than purely by email", said Lance Cottrell, chief scientist at the U.S. technology group Ntrepid. Don't click on links that you don't recognize, or download files from people you don't know personally.

The sort of ransom demands have been growing precedent at medical facilities. In 2016, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in California said it had paid a $17,000 ransom to regain control of its computers from hackers.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported a university hospital had been affected, while a communications official in Indonesia said two hospitals there had been affected. Authorities said they were communicating with more than 100 energy, transportation, telecommunications and financial services providers about the attack.

At St. Bartholomew's Hospital in central London, Sean, who did not want to give his last name, said he noticed problems with the network as soon as he arrived.

These hackers "have caused enormous amounts of disruption- probably the biggest ransomware cyberattack in history", said Graham Cluley, a veteran of the anti-virus industry in Oxford, England.

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