Seven hospitals affected by cyber attack still in need of support

Ellen Mills
May 16, 2017

It has emerged that at least one Australian organisation has fallen victim to a the weekend's global ransomware attack.

The U.K.'s National Cyber Security Centre said Sunday that there have been "no sustained new attacks" of the kind that struck Friday.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said there was no evidence patient data had been compro-mised and added that the attack had not specifically targeted the National Health Service.

In China, the internet security company Qihoo360 issued a "red alert" saying that a large number of colleges and students in the country had been affected by the ransomware, which is also referred to as WannaCrypt. Omer Fatih Sayan said the country's cyber security center is continuing operations against the malicious software.

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.

'There have also been other reports made to our online cyber security network and the difficulty is of course there are literally hundres of instances of ransomware in Australia each week and so we are now seeking to confirm whether these are examples of the particular ransomware that has cause so much havoc for example in the United Kingdom'.

Like many others, the malware gets onto a computer by having an unwitting victim open and run an innocuous-looking email attachment.

Infected computers appear to largely be out-of-date devices that organizations deemed not worth the price of upgrading or, in some cases, machines involved in manufacturing or hospital functions that proved too hard to patch without possibly disrupting crucial operations, security experts said. The exploit was leaked last month as part of a trove of NSA spy tools.

"The vulnerability was first found by the NSA", UK-based security researcher Graham Cluley noted in a blog post yesterday.

A man types on a computer keyboard in this illustration.

Officials and experts on Sunday urged organizations and companies to update their operating systems immediately to ensure they aren't vulnerable to a second, more powerful version of the software - or to future versions that can't be stopped. Install Microsoft's patch. 3.

Much of the ransomware's spread around the world occurred without any human involvement.

Citing the far-reaching potential impact on customers, Microsoft took the unusual step of offering a custom support security update for users with versions of Windows that are no longer supported.

The hackers said they would reverse the effect of their software once they received the payments they demanded.

The NHS says it employs more than 1.5 million people, making it one of the world's biggest employers alongside the U.S. Department of Defence, Walmart and the Chinese army.

"But our immediate priority as a government is to disrupt the attack, restore affected services as soon as possible, and establish who was behind it so we can bring them to justice".

He said people should be regularly updating their software, and not just when there is a threat. "If a malicious code outbreak breaks out tomorrow, and targets unsupported operating systems, Microsoft may have to go there again".

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