Europol: Tuesday's Worldwide Cyberattack 'More Sophisticated' Than Previous Hacks

A computer screen cyberattack warning notice reportedly holding computer files to ransom as part of a massive international cyberattack at an office in Kiev Ukraine Tuesday

Ukraine, along with Russian Federation and companies across Europe, was hit Tuesday in a wave of cyberattacks which IT experts identified as a modified version of the Petya ransomware that struck past year.

Computer users should also routinely back up their files, so if they are hit by a cyber attack there will be a copy of their files.

The spy agency has not said publicly whether it built Eternal Blue and other hacking tools leaked online by an entity known as Shadow Brokers. Experts say it will be hard for the attackers to do anything with the money without it being traced by governments and cyber sleuths.

The Petya virus is very similar to the WannaCry virus that infected computer systems in over 150 countries in May. "For spreading, it appears to be using a combination of the EternalBlue exploit used by WannaCryptor for getting inside the network, then spreading through PsExec within the network", says Nick FitzGerald, Senior Research Fellow, ESET.

Several Ukrainian ministries, local banks, and the Kyiv metro system were affected by the attack, the government said.

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The cyberattack Tuesday caused disruptions at companies in 64 different countries, including America's Merck pharmaceutical company, Russia's Rosneft oil giant, British advertising agency WPP and French industrial group Saint-Gobain. Unlike WannaCry, Petya doesn't create custom Bitcoin payment addresses for individual victims, and it also tells victims to communicate with the perpetrators via email, which is traceable, rather than through the anonymous Tor network.

Writing on his blog, Kreb reported that Weaver said, "I'm willing to say with at least moderate confidence that this was a deliberate, malicious, destructive attack or perhaps a test disguised as ransomware".

Therefore, it remains to be seen whether the patchwork was good enough or if the new ransomware was using the same vulnerabilities as WannaCry because not all people and organisations installed the Microsoft-issued patches.

However, security experts here say the infection has not yet spread into public sector bodies such as hospitals or schools, as the previous WannaCry ransomware attack did.

How does it infect a computer?Sophos is still analysing how this threat first enters a company network, but they have noticed that this new outbreak uses the "EternalBlue" exploit as a way to spread within a network after the initial infection.

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"A massive ransomware campaign is now unfolding worldwide", said Romanian cybersecurity company Bitdefender.

Romanian companies were also hit by the WannaCry ransomware attack in May, with auto manufacturer Dacia-Renault among those affected.

A Ukrainian media company said its computers were blocked and it was asked to pay $300 in the crypto-currency bitcoin to regain access.

While it may be very hard to assign blame for the attack, the timing was suggestive, the Times says: It hit the day before the holiday marking the adoption of post-Soviet Ukraine's first constitution in 1996.

The spread of the attack across the globe and into Asia underscores how ransomware is becoming a routine risk of doing business.

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It added that "all strategic assets, including those involved in protecting state security, are working normally". He added that any response would take time to implement given the large volume of traffic handled by the port.

WannaCry was largely undone by the discovery of a "kill switch" that could shut it down.No such kill switch has been found so far with Petya, and experts are still working to find a way to stop it. "Nobody can recover your files without our decryption service", the message said, according to a screenshot posted on Ukraine's Channel 24.

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