WannaCry Ransomware Attacks More Than 150 Countries, Users Advised To Update Windows ASAP

By Michael Augustin , Updated May 15, 2017 03:48 AM EDT

Last Friday, a new type of ransomware reportedly affected over 150 countries. It has affected the largest telecom companies in Spain, it caused problems at the National Health Service in the UK, and even the Internal Affairs Ministry of Russia was taken down. According to cyber security analysts, the attack has just started and is poised to gain momentum if it is not stopped soon. It is called WannaCry and it apparently exploits a Windows vulnerability.

The latest reports have noted that WannaCry has already spread across 100,000 organizations in at least 150 countries. The ransomware integrates itself onto a vulnerable device like a smartphone or computer. It then disables some of the important features of the device until users pay a ransom to the creator. So far, it has affected countries like the US, Spain, the UK, Russia, and China. Buzz Feed News reports that it continues to spread is being labeled as "the biggest ransomware attack of all time."

According to reports, the WannaCry ransomware targets some vulnerability with Microsoft's Windows OS. The weakness was reportedly discovered by the NSA and was made public last month by a group called the Shadow Brokers. The hackers allegedly shared a collection of NSA hacking tools into the public servers. Reports also pointed out that the unknown hackers are demanding around $300 to $600 in order to restore system functionality, as reported by Business Insider.

Even though Microsoft already released a security patch to block the exploit last March, it seems several organizations from different countries failed to have their systems updated. This allowed the WannaCry ransomware to quickly spread and infect major organizations in several countries starting last week. A cyber security expert commented that "this kind of attack is indiscriminate in its nature." The expert also added that the attacks are "financially motivated, however that doesn't mean that there aren't other potential scenarios.

Some cyber security experts have confirmed that the WannaCry attacks are not showing any signs of slowing down. It seems the only way to prevent an attack is to avoid opening any suspicious emails and to make sure that all computers are updated to the latest security patch from Microsoft.

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