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Cyber Threat Is Back


By Mark Phillips ¦ Updated 28th June 2017, 05.12 EDT

A new major malware attack has started to spread rapidly, crippling major organizations by locking down PCs and holding the data to ransom.

Hackers have launched a new strain of ransomware virus, known as ‘Petya’, designed to hijack a victims’ computer by encrypting their files, only releasing them when a financial ransom is paid.

Among the malicious software’s victims are major firms Mondelez, Maersk, and DLA Piper. Chernobyl’s radiation monitoring system has been struck, causing its sensors to cease functioning. In addition, the largest advertising agency in the world, the UK-based WPP, was just one of many firms to suffer a breach.

The ransomware is believed to have originally spread through accounting software, created to specifically attack vulnerabilities within a business’s IT systems.

The outage initially came to light in the Ukraine after the country’s airport, power grid, communication firms and national bank reported serious issues. Shortly after, the ransomware spread to Europe, hitting companies in Germany, Norway, Denmark and France.

This harrowing attack comes just weeks after the notorious WannaCry was unleashed by the mysterious Shadow Brokers group, with that unprecedented global attack crippling the IT systems of many NHS hospitals.

Over 200,000 victims from 150 countries were infected by WannaCry, a hacking tool stolen from the US National Security Agency and leaked online, which spread from the UK and Spain last month before spreading globally.

Cyber security experts, such as Marcus Hutchins, have warned that Petya could in fact be more dangerous since, unlike WannaCry, it has no “kill switch”, and is built to spread rapidly through IT networks.

Hutchins, who recently discovered a way to prevent WannaCry from infecting computers, is currently working on a solution, along with others in the field, to this latest cyber threat.

“It’s early days – we don’t know if we can find a fix yet. But if it’s decryptable, we will find a way. Everyone’s looking at this right now and I’m working with other researchers.”

“I was just praying it wasn’t the WannaCry exploit again. Ideally we’ll have to find a way to decrypt the files or else people are not going to get them back.”

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