Dozens of countries around the world found themselves under cyberattacks today, by hackers using a stolen hacking tool that was developed by the National Security Agency of the United States.
Companies in the healthcare and telecommunication industries were mostly affected across Europe and Asia, including Britain, Germany, Japan, and Spain. Reports on Britain hacks seem the most severe, with their public health system severely compromised.
US companies were also targeted, including FedEx. According to researcher MalwareTech, at least 1,600 US companies have been affected, compared to 11,200 in Russia and 6,500 in China.
The tool used, named WannaCry, is ransomware, which has been an increasingly used piece of malware that locks data on a victim’s computer so it cannot be accessed. The hacker then asks for a ransom in order to release the data. In Britain, the attacks blocked doctor’s access to patient files and disrupted care at emergency rooms.
The specific hacking tool developed by the NSA targeted a vulnerability in Microsoft systems. The malicious file containing the ransomware was emailed to victims and once opened, was able to launch and lock data.
Security experts immediately advised companies to update their systems with a Microsoft patch to close the exploit.
There is still no information on who is behind the attacks, or how much personal data was compromised.