AÂ quickly spreading ransomware attackÂ is hitting countries across the world including France, Russia, Spain, Ukraine and the United States, just weeks after a ransomware attack known asÂ WannaCry.
What We Know
M.E.Doc denied that it was patient zero inÂ a Facebook post, though an earlier message confirmed that its systems had been compromised.
How widespread it has become?
More than 12,500 machines running older versions of Microsoft Windows were targeted in Ukraine, according to Microsoft, though the attack quickly spread to 64 countries
Several private companies have confirmed that they were struck by the attack, including:
â€¢ The American pharmaceutical giant Merck.
â€¢ The Danish shipping company AP Moller-Maersk.
â€¢ The British advertising firm WPP.
â€¢ The French multinational Saint-Gobain.
â€¢ A unit of the bank BNP Paribas.
â€¢ The Russian steel and mining company Evraz.
â€¢ The Russian energy company Rosneft.
â€¢ The American food company Mondelez International.
Trading of FedExâ€™s shares were briefly halted on Wednesday after the company said that the global operations of a subsidiary,Â TNT Express, hadÂ also been impacted.
What the Ransomware is?
Cybersecurity researchers first called the new ransomware attack Petya, as it was similar to a ransomware strain known by that name that was firstÂ reportedÂ by Kasperksy in March 2016. But Kaspersky later said that its investigation into the new attack found that it was a type of ransomware that had never been seen before.
Photographs and videos of computers affected by the attack showed a message of red text on a black screen: â€œOops, your important files have been encrypted. If you see this text then your files are no longer accessible because they have been encrypted. Perhaps you are busy looking to recover your files but donâ€™t waste your time.â€�
Symantec, a Silicon Valley cybersecurity firm,Â confirmedÂ that the ransomware was infecting computers through at least one exploit, or vulnerability to computer systems, known as Eternal Blue. The exploit was leaked online last April by a mysterious group of hackers known as the Shadow Brokers, who have previously released hacking tools used by the National Security Agency. That vulnerability was used in May to spread the WannaCry ransomware, which affected hundreds of thousands of computers in more than 150 countries.
People are paying
Cybersecurity researchers identified aÂ Bitcoin addressÂ to which the attackers are demanding a payment of $300 from their victims. At least some appear to have paid the ransom (As of Wednesday morning, the address had logged 45 transactions), even though the email address used by the attackers was shut down. That removes the possibility that the attackers could restore a victimâ€™s access to their computer networks, even once ransom is paid.
What We Donâ€™t Know
WHETHER THERE WILL BE MORE COLLATERAL DAMAGE?
Ukraine and Russia are most affected, andÂ despite some reports across Asia, the region has mostly sidestepped the widespread problems felt in Europe and the United States. Researchers from Symantec believe that several dozen organizations have been affected in the United States alone.
Cybersecurity experts say that like WannaCry, the ransomware infects computers using vulnerabilities in the central nerve of a computer, called a kernel, making it difficult for antivirus firms to detect. It also has the ability to take advantage of a single unpatched computer on a network to infect computers across a vast network, meaning that even systems that were updated after WannaCry could potentially become vulnerable again.
What Is Ransomware?
â€¢Â RansomwareÂ is one of the most popular forms of online attack today. It typically begins with attackers sending their victims an email that includes a link or a file that appears innocuous but contains dangerous malware.
â€¢ Once a victim clicks on the link or opens the attachment, the computer becomes infected. The program encrypts the computer, essentially locking the user out of files, folders and drives on that computer. In some cases, the entire network the computer is connected to can become infected.
â€¢ The victim then receives a message demanding payment in exchange for attackers unlocking the system. The payment is usually requested in Bitcoin, a form of digital currency.
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