Cyber attack is biggest of its kind ever launched, say security chiefs

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's cyber security adviser, Alastair MacGibbon, said on Sunday there had been one confirmed incident in Australia, but warned it was likely more computer systems would eventually be hit.

More than 200,000 victims in around 150 countries have been infected by the ransomware which originated in the United Kingdom and Spain on Friday before spreading globally.

Chinese state media say more than 29,000 institutions across the country have been infected, along with hundreds of thousands of devices.

"We've never seen anything like this", the head of the European Union's policing agency told Britain's ITV television Sunday. Wainwright described the cyberattack as an "escalating threat".

"The numbers are still going up", Wainwright said. The warning was echoed by Britain's National Cyber Security Centre: "As a new working week begins it is likely, in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, that further cases of ransomware may come to light, possibly at a significant scale".

The cyber attacks use "ransomware" which locks up systems and their data, demanding payment before they are unlocked.

Once infected, all of the files on the computer are encrypted by the malware, which then displays a ransom demand of between USA $300 and $600 in bitcoin that needs to be paid before the files can be decrypted. Bitcoin, the world's most-used virtual currency, allows anonymous transactions via heavily encrypted codes.

He said it was unclear so far how it had started but ransomware generally spread via a few different methods.

"A review of the three payment addresses hardcoded into the Wana ransomware strain indicates that these accounts to date have received 100 payments totaling slightly more than 15 Bitcoins - or approximately $26,148 at the current Bitcoin-to-dollars exchange rate".

Senior security staff held another meeting in the White House Situation Room on Saturday, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Security Agency were trying to identify the perpetrators of the massive cyber attack, said the official, who spoke on condition on anonymity to the news agency to discuss internal deliberations. He warned governments against stockpiling such vulnerabilities and said instead they should report them to manufacturers - not sell, store or exploit them, lest they fall into the wrong hands. "The governments of the world should treat this attack as a wakeup call". "An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the USA military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen", Smith wrote.

"Once a machine is infected it will scan the entire internal network and infect other vulnerable machines". The attack therefore spread faster than previous, smaller-scale ransomware attacks.

She said the attack had not been focused on the NHS but was part of a wide global issue, and said the government had invested 2 billion pounds in cyber security. French carmaker Renault was forced to stop production at sites in France, Slovenia and Romania, while FedEx said it was "implementing remediation steps as quickly as possible".

Just one click on an infected attachment or bad link would lead to all computers in a network becoming infected, said Vikram Thakur, technical director of Symantec Security Response.

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