By Matt Reynolds
Countries around the world are still dealing with an ongoing ransomware attack that hit institutions and businesses worldwide, including hospitals in the UK, the Russian interior ministry and universities in China.
The outbreak started on Friday and spread quickly across the world, infecting around 200,000 computers in 150 countries. In the UK, the malware invaded at least 60 NHS trusts, preventing doctors from accessing patient records and forcing them to cancel non-urgent procedures. Europe and Russia were hit particularly hard, before its advance was slowed when a security researcher in the UK stumbled on a web domain hidden in the malware’s code. When he registered the domain it triggered a “kill switch” that prevented many instances of the virus from spreading.
Dubbed WannaCry, the malicious software was a form of ransomware. The first computers were infected by people unwittingly clicking links in phishing emails. But from each patient zero the software then spread through computer networks by itself. Once installed on a machine, the malware encrypted all of the files it could find, locking them away from users. The first most people knew of the infection was a pop-up screen informing them that the contents of their computer would be deleted after seven days unless they paid a bitcoin ransom equivalent to $300.
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