A massive ransomware cyber-attack has already claimed 200,000 victims from 150 countries since Friday and is expected to escalate after the weekend. The victims include governments, hospitals, companies and individuals. Hospitals in the UK were forced to cancel scheduled surgeries due to fears of system breakdown. Most US companies were able to “dodge a bullet” since they had already upgraded their security systems against such attacks. However, a second stronger wave is expected to come after the weekend.

What you need to know

The software used for this attack is a variation of a ransomware called WannaCry.

The WannaCry ransomware is a variation of a software that was developed by the NSA to take over and control Windows on the computers of terrorists by exploiting a flaw in the operating system. However, in mid-April, this software was stolen and leaked on the internet by a group called “Shadow Brokers.The WannaCry ransomware encrypts all files of an afflicted computer and then displays the message “Oops your files have been encrypted!” After that, it asks the user to pay $300 in Bitcoin, which is an untraceable digital currency, in order to restore access.

The cyber-attack initially targeted Russia, Ukraine, and Taiwan but rapidly spread almost all over the world. Victims include UK hospitals, Chinese Universities, and FedEx.

A twenty-two-year-old cyber-security expert from the UK, who has been described as a hero, managed to activate the “kill switch” of the ransomware and prevent further attacks. However, a second stronger wave of attacks is expected to occur this week and the ransomware will probably not have a “kill switch.”

US government warning

According to the New York Times, a Trump administration official, who wishes to remain anonymous, has warned that this cyber-attack was much more complicated than initially thought.

He said that this is because this code was cobbled together from many places and sources. The more potential sources of the malicious code, the harder it is for investigators to run down the trail of possible perpetrators.This means that experts may not have enough time to prevent a second wave.

Microsoft warning

According to BBC News, Microsoft blames governments for this cyber-attack because they store data regarding operating system vulnerabilities on computers.

This makes the data vulnerable to hackers. This is what happened in this case as the flaw in Windows and the software that exploits it were leaked from US Intelligence.

Microsoft experts fear that there will be more sophisticated ransomware cyber-attacks when people begin work on Monday, although not many have been reported so far.