Global cyberattack: What you need to know

A "powerful" cyberattack that started in Ukraine has spread across the world, hitting banks, government IT systems and energy firms.

"We confirm our company's computer network was compromised today as part of global hack", Merck said on Twitter.

The attacks started Tuesday at around 2:00 pm Kiev time (1100 GMT) and quickly spread to 80 companies in Ukraine and Russian Federation, said cybersecurity company Group IB.

SingCERT said the latest ransomware is based on the EternalBlue exploit, which was also used for WannaCry.

And here's a ready-reckoner on ransomware attacks.

Law enforcement and cybersecurity experts agree that victims should never pay ransoms for such attacks.

Some 2,000 attacks were observed as of midday in NY on Tuesday, according to Kaspersky Lab. Russia and Ukraine were most affected, with other victims spread across countries including Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and the United States, the security software maker said.

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"Our initial analysis found that the ransomware uses multiple techniques to spread, including one which was addressed by a security update previously provided for all platforms from Windows XP to Windows 10 (MS17-010)", a Microsoft spokesperson told AFP. Eternal Blue takes advantage of a vulnerability in the Windows operating system, for which Microsoft issued a patch earlier this year.

We'll note that Kaspersky is an NPR funder, and we do work with them on our computers. According to those researchers, "Our preliminary findings suggest that it is not a variant of Petya ransomware as publicly reported, but a new ransomware that has not been seen before".

More than 80 companies in Russian Federation and Ukraine were initially affected by the Petya virus, which disabled computers and told users to pay US$300 ($412) in cryptocurrency to unlock them, according to the Moscow-based cybersecurity company Group-IB.

It seems that most reports are coming from old Soviet Bloc states (Ukraine, Russia, and Poland), which raises the question of where the attacker is based. In a very fresh cyber-attack, the hackers have stepped up and caused a serious disruption to large-scale companies of Europe.

The statement added that the hacking tools used in the attack were leaked by a group called Shadow Brokers, which stole them from the United States' National Security Agency (NSA).

This is because the method requires each user to create a file on their own computer to prevent the virus from starting to encrypt files, unlike a "killswitch" which could stop the virus spreading altogether.

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