Published: Sun, May 14, 2017
Sci-tech | By Carrie Guzman

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Cyber extortionists tricked victims into opening malicious malware attachments to spam emails that seemed to contain invoices, job offers, security warnings and other legitimate files.

The security holes it exploits were disclosed several weeks ago by TheShadowBrokers, a mysterious group that has published what it says are hacking tools used by the NSA as part of its intelligence-gathering.

NEW YORK — The cyberextortion attack hitting dozens of countries spread quickly and widely thanks to an unusual confluence of factors: a known and highly unsafe security hole in Microsoft Windows, tardy users who didn't apply Microsoft's March software fix, and a software design that allowed the malware to spread quickly once inside university, business and government networks.

WannaCrypt/WannaCry ransomware has affected Windows XP systems across the globe.

Fedex said it was "experiencing interference with some of our Windows-based systems caused by malware" and was trying to fix the problems as quickly as possible.

Russia's interior ministry, with oversees the police forces, said about "1,000 computers were infected", which it described as less than 1% of the total, according to its website.

In a statement Saturday, Europol's European Cybercrime Centre, known as EC3, said the attack "is at an unprecedented level and will require a complex global investigation to identify the culprits".

The spokesman, Jan Op Gen Oorth, declined to give further details Friday so as not to jeopardize the ongoing investigations.

"I think these hackers have to recognize that these authorities will come after them with a vengeance", Gazeley said.

In Russia, government agencies insisted that all attacks had been resolved. That security bulletin only included fixes for Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2012, and Windows Server 2016. The statement said antivirus systems are working to destroy it.

People walk past a Megafon mobile phones shop in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, May 13, 2017.

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In a statement, the NHS said: "A number of NHS organizations have reported to NHS Digital that they have been affected by a ransomware attack which is affecting a number of different organizations". He said that mobile communications haven't been affected. It is thought a criminal gang may then have use the cyber weapon to gain access to computers including NHS systems. "We will continue to work with affected organizations to confirm this". "And we're not aware of any evidence that patient data has been compromised", UK Prime Minister Theresa May said. The attack froze computers at hospitals across the country, with some canceling all routine procedures.

Past year an acute-care hospital in Hollywood paid $17,000 in bitcoin to an extortionist who hijacked its computer systems and forced doctors and staff to revert to pen and paper for record-keeping.

Similar widespread attacks have been reported in Spain and other countries. But how much do individuals need to worry about their personal computers being targeted? Basic services that impact your life could be impacted even while your own machines is clean.

Indeed, while FedEx Corp. reported that its Windows computers were "experiencing interference" from malware - it wouldn't say if it had been hit by the ransomware - other impacts in the USA were not readily apparent on Saturday.

Spain's Telefonica, a global broadband and telecommunications company, was among the companies hit.

The Industry Ministry says the attack affected the Windows operating system of employees' computers, blocking files and demanding a ransom to free up the system. It is available in at least 28 languages, including Bulgarian and Vietnamese, according to Avast, a Czech security company that is following the fast-moving attack.

British media had reported previous year that most public health organizations were using an outdated version of Microsoft Windows that was not equipped with security updates.

Doctors at some surgeries were forced to use pen and paper to record patient details following the attack.

In the United Kingdom, 45 organizations in the National Health Service were affected, home secretary Amber Rudd said Saturday, and hospitals in London, North West England and Central England urged people with non-emergency conditions to stay away as technicians tried to stop the spread of the malicious software.

In Britain, the attack disrupted care at National Health Service facilities, forcing ambulances to divert and hospitals to postpone operations.

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