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World braces for more cyberattacks as work week begins

18 May 2017
World braces for more cyberattacks as work week begins

A worldwide WannaCry (also known as WannaCrypt) ransomware attack that wreaked havoc in United Kingdom hospitals and Russian telecom networks, could resurface today as workers return to the office, experts have warned.

At least one Australian business has been affected by the global WannaCry ransomware attack which affected more than 75,000 computers in nearly 100 countries, the nation's Cyber Security Minister confirmed on Monday.

Wainwright said the attack was indiscriminate, fast-spreading and unique because the ransomware was being used in combination with a worm - meaning that the infection of one computer could automatically spread it through an entire network.

The cyberextortion attack hitting dozens of countries was a "perfect storm" of sorts.

Microsoft said in a blog post that it was taking the "highly unusual" step of providing the patch for older versions of Windows it was otherwise no longer supporting, including Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

The spread of the virus slowed over the weekend but the respite might only be brief, experts have said.

As terrifying as the unprecedented global "ransomware" attack was, cybersecurity experts say it's nothing compared to what might be coming - especially if companies and governments don't make major fixes.

"We have been concerned for some time that the healthcare sectors in many countries are particularly vulnerable".

At the height of the attack Friday and early Saturday, 48 organizations in the NHS were affected, and hospitals in London, North West England and Central England urged people with non-emergency conditions to stay.

"We will get a decryption tool eventually, but for the moment, it's still a live threat and we're still in disaster recovery mode", Europol director Rob Wainwright told CNN on Sunday.

"People going back to work on Monday may switch on their computers and see their systems have been impacted", he said.

Australian officials said so far only three small-to-medium sized businesses had reported being locked out of their systems while New Zealand's ministry of business said a small number of unconfirmed incidents were being investigated.

Germany's rail operator Deutsche Bahn said its station display panels were affected.

The companies and government agencies targeted were diverse.

Nevertheless, it had upped its cyber security of critical infrastructure. Universities in Greece and Italy also were hit.

Meanwhile G-7 finance ministers meeting in Italy vowed to unite against cyber crime, as it represented a growing threat to their economies and should be tackled as a priority. The danger will be discussed at the G7 leaders' summit next month.

"The affected company doesn't fall under critical infrastructure, it's not a medical or health service and it is not a big company", he said. It said it believed the difficulties are linked to the global cyberattack but they haven't so far harmed its business operations.