Log in, look out - cyber attack could grow

2017-05-14 19:52
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London - The former US national intelligence director says the global "ransom-ware" attack could grow much larger when people return to work.

James Clapper told ABC's This Week on Sunday that he expects similar attacks to become a growing problem in the future.

Europe's police agency says the attack has hit at least 100 000 organisations in 150 countries.

It is believed to be the biggest online extortion recorded. It spread cyber chaos worldwide, hitting Britain's hospital network, Germany's railway and scores of companies and government agencies.

Clapper and Europol say the scope of the problem may become bigger on Monday when people switch on their computers.

Clapper, who served as intelligence director under President Barack Obama, calls it a "very serious, serious problem".

Attackers have demanded $300 to $600 to unlock encrypted files.

Motivation 

Earlier on Sunday, Europol spokesperson Jan Op Gen Oorth said it was too early to say who is behind the onslaught and what their motivation was.

He said the main challenge was the fast-spreading capabilities of the malware, but added that, so far, not many people have paid the ransoms that the virus demands.

As terrifying as the unprecedented global "ransom-ware" attack was, cybersecurity experts say it's nothing compared to what might be coming - especially if companies and governments don't make major fixes.

Had it not been for a young cybersecurity researcher's accidental discovery of a so-called "kill switch", the malicious software likely would have spread much further and faster than it did on Friday.

Security experts tempered the alarm bells by saying that widespread attacks are tough to pull off.

This one worked because of a "perfect storm" of conditions, including a known and highly dangerous security hole in Microsoft Windows, tardy users who didn't apply Microsoft's March software fix, and malware designed to spread quickly once inside university, business or government networks.

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