Dozens of countries hit by huge cyberextortion attack

By Kaspersky Lab's count, the malware struck at least 74 countries.

An NCSC spokesman told NZ Newswire the ransomware exploits a known Windows vulnerability, and advice had previously been provided to customers on how to address the issue.

"The virus has been localised".

Scottish Health Secretary Shona Robison said officials were convening an emergency meeting to deal with the problem.

The ministry's statement comes as an increasing number of cyber strikes are reported around the world, including against dozens of British hospitals.

Spain's Ministry of Energy, Tourism and Digital Agenda confirms the intrusion, describing it as "punctual attacks".

"We needed to partly turn off whole networks internally so the virus didn't spread", RIA Novosti news agency quoted MegaFon public relations director Pyotr Lidov as saying.

Spain has activated a special protocol to protect critical infrastructure in response to the "massive infection" of personal and corporate computers targeted in ransomware cyberattacks.

Friday morning, the Twitter account MalwareHunterTeam reported ransomware known as WanaCrypt0r (a WannaCry variant) spreading at an alarming rate.

Finding the perpetrators will rely on the hope that the hackers made a technical mistake while preparing the attack, Kolochenko said. "We are implementing remediation steps as quickly as possible", it said in a statement.

By midafternoon, officials with NHS Digital, which oversees cybersecurity for the national health system, told the New York Times that at least 25 hospitals had been hit by the attack.

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Spain's Telefonica was among the companies hit.

"For so many organizations in the same day to be hit, this is unprecedented", Wysopal said.

But those attacks - blamed on Russian Federation, which has repeatedly denied them - followed a different modus operandi involving penetrating the accounts of individuals and political organisations and then releasing hacked material online.

"It's an global attack and a number of countries and organizations have been affected", she said.

Security experts say a cyberattack that holds computer data for ransom grew out of vulnerabilities purportedly identified by the National Security Agency.

But those attacks - blamed on Russian Federation, which has repeatedly denied them - followed an entirely different modus operandi involving penetrating the accounts of individuals and political organizations and then releasing hacked material online.

At the time, some cyber-security experts said some of the malware was real, but old, BBC News reported, reminding a patch for the vulnerability was released by Microsoft in March, but many systems may not have had the update installed. "In less than 3 hours (even can say less than 2 hours if we count it from the explosion), they got victims already from 11 countries".

"The age-old advice is to never click on a link in an email", said Jerome Segura, a senior malware intelligence researcher at Malwarebytes, a San Jose-based company that has released anti-ransomware software. The infected computer screens demand payment for the data to be released. In 2016, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in California said it had paid a $17,000 ransom to regain control of its computers from hackers.

"Ransomware becomes particularly nasty when it infects institutions like hospitals, where it can put people's lives in danger", said Kroustek, the Avast analyst.

Barts Health NHS Trust in London was "experiencing a major IT disruption and there are delays at all of our hospitals", its website said. The Trust's chief operating officer, Mark Brassington, said all IT systems and many phone lines had been switched off, and they were diverting some emergency cases to other local hospitals.

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