Economy

Global cyberattack underway, several big companies being hit

Global cyberattack underway, several big companies being hit”

In the United States, the malware affected companies such as the drugmaker Merck and Mondelez International, the owner of food brands such as Oreo and Nabisco.

Ukrainian utility Kievenergo switched off all computers after its system was hacked, while another power company, Ukrenergo, was also affected, though "not seriously", the Interfax news service reported.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Pavlo Rozenko said on Tuesday that the government's computer network was down, and posted a picture on Twitter of a computer screen showing an error message, Reuters reported.

Cyber intelligence firm Flashpoint said it believed the outbreak began in Ukraine, where attackers loaded the ransomware onto computers when they requested updates of a widely used accounting software program. "We will update when we have more information".

"We are taking steps to remedy the issue as quickly as possible", a spokesperson for the law firm said. He declined further comment.

The cryptolocker demands $300 in bitcoins and does not name the encrypting program, which makes finding a solution hard, said Group IB spokesman Evgeny Gukov in an emailed comment. So far, in Russian Federation, oil producer Rosneft and metal company Evraz have been affected by the attack.

The number of companies and agencies reportedly affected by the ransomware campaign was piling up fast, and the electronic rampage appeared to be rapidly snowballing into a real-world crisis.

Danish shipping giant AP Moller-Maersk, which handles one out of seven containers shipped globally, said the attack had caused outages at its computer systems across the world, including at its terminal in Los Angeles.

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Still, the attack could be more risky than traditional strains of ransomware because it makes computers unresponsive and unable to reboot, Juniper Networks said in a blog post analyzing the attack.

Ukraine appears to have been particularly badly hit, with the country's government reporting that some of its systems, as well as those of key institutions including banks and telecom providers, had been affected.

In the USA, the Department of Homeland Security's Scott McConnell says the agency is "monitoring reports of cyber attacks affecting multiple global entities and is coordinating with our worldwide and domestic cyber partners".

It said the malicious program appeared to be almost identical to GoldenEye, one of a family of rogue programs that has been circulating for months.

Ransomware, one of those words that wasn't even a word a few years ago, has become infamous as cyber-criminals across the world use it regularly to extort money out of technologically paralyzed victims.

"It's like somebody sneezing into a train full of people", said Botezatu. "You just have to exist there and you're vulnerable".

The hack's scale and the use of ransomware quickly recalled the massive May cyber attack in which hackers likely linked to North Korea disabled computers in dozens of nations, including Ukraine, using a flaw that was once incorporated by the National Security Agency's surveillance tool kit.

In an email, a Posteo representative said it had blocked the email address "immediately" after learning that it was associated with ransomware.

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