A global spate of ransomware cyber attacks hit companies and government organizations in at least seven countries on Friday, May 12 evening.
Britain,Russia, Ukraine, and Taiwan were the worst hit by the attacks by malware called WannaCry or WannaCry 2, Jakub Kroustek, a malware researcher at AVG Avast, said.
The attacks, which see a virus encrypt a computers files and demand payment in bitcoin to de-code them, began with an assault on hospitals across Britain.
By mid afternoon 36,000 attacks had been clocked around the globe. Malware security companies said they had detected attacks in Spain, the Philippines, and Kazakhstan, Turkey, Vietnam, Germany, Indonesia, and Japan.
MalwareTech, another firm that tracks cyber attacks, said its botnet tracking servers had picked up over 38,000 attacks in dozens of countries around the world, with Europe, the United States, and China heavily affected.
Twitter users also reported similar attacks targeting Windows operating systems in Pakistan and Italy.
In Russia, there were unconfirmed reports that the attacks had hit police computers in several regions and two of the country’s biggest mobile phone and electronics retailers.
“This has appeared on the screens of all the computers at Megafon retail,” one Twitter user wrote. Megafon is one of Russia’s big three mobile telecoms providers.
Many of the attacks could not immediately be independently confirmed.
In Spain, major companies were hit by a cyberattack bearing striking similarities with the onslaught against that has crippled the NHS.
Firms such as Telefónica, Spain’s leading telecom company, were targeted by malware around midday on Friday, causing operators’ computer screens to turn blue.
Access to files became impossible and a demand for a ransom to be paid in bitcoins flashed up on screens at Telefónica’s headquarters in northern Madrid.
Telefónica employees said that after the screen turned blue, they read a message asking them to pay a ransom of $300 in bitcoins to free their files. The amount would increase after May 15 and a few days later the files destroyed, the message read.
Spain’s National Cryptology Centre (CCN), part of the country’s secret security services, conformed in a press release that a “massive ransomware attack affecting Windows systems” had affected “a large number of organisations”.
The CNN said the malware was a version of the WannaCry virus, which codified all Windows files on an affected PC and infected all other Windows systems operating in the same network.
Telefónica admitted that it had been the victim of a “cybersecurity incident” but said that the attack had not affected the functioning of its telephone and internet networks across the country.