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Ransomware virus hits computer servers across the globe

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A ransomware attack hit computers across the world on Tuesday, taking out servers at Russia’s biggest oil company, disrupting operations at Ukrainian banks, and shutting down computers at multinational shipping and advertising firms.

Cyber security experts said those behind the attack appeared to have exploited the same type of hacking tool used in the WannaCry ransomware attack that infected hundreds of thousands of computers in May before a British researcher created a kill-switch.

“It’s like WannaCry all over again,” said Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer with Helsinki-based cyber security firm F-Secure.

He said he expected the outbreak to spread in the Americas as workers turned on vulnerable machines, allowing the virus to attack. “This could hit the U.S.A. pretty bad,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it was monitoring reports of cyber attacks around the world and coordinating with other countries.

The first reports of organizations being hit emerged from Russia and Ukraine, but the impact quickly spread westwards to computers in Romania, the Netherlands, Norway, and Britain.

Within hours, the attack had gone global.

Danish shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk, which handles one out of seven containers shipped globally, said the attack had caused outages at its computer systems across the world on Tuesday, including at its terminal in Los Angeles.

Pharmaceutical company Merck & Co said its computer network had been affected by the global hack.

A Swiss government agency also reported computer systems were affected in India, though the country’s cyber security agency said it had yet to receive any reports of attacks.

 

“DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME”

After the Wannacry attack, organizations around the globe were advised to beef up IT security.

“Unfortunately, businesses are still not ready and currently more than 80 companies are affected,” said Nikolay Grebennikov, vice president for R&D at data protection firm Acronis.

One of the victims of Tuesday’s cyber attack, a Ukrainian media company, said its computers were blocked and it had a demand for $300 worth of the Bitcoin crypto-currency to restore access to its files.

“If you see this text, then your files are no longer accessible, because they have been encrypted. Perhaps you are busy looking for a way to recover your files, but don’t waste your time. Nobody can recover your files without our decryption service,” the message said, according to a screenshot posted by Ukraine’s Channel 24.

The same message appeared on computers at Maersk offices in Rotterdam and at businesses affected in Norway.

Other companies that said they had been hit by a cyber attack included Russian oil producer Rosneft, French construction materials firm Saint Gobain and the world’s biggest advertising agency, WPP – though it was not clear if their problems were caused by the same virus.

“The building has come to a standstill. It’s fine, we’ve just had to switch everything off,” said one WPP employee who asked not to be named.

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