Ransomware malware is appearing on computer networks around the globe but the origins currently remain unknown.
This week one of the most severe ransomware attacks of 2017 wreaked havoc across the internet.
Around the world compromised computers began displaying pop-up windows which informed that their files had been encrypted by a malware dubbed WannaCry. A payment of $300 in Bitcoins would have to be made or else the user risks losing their files permanently.
The malware bragged that some files could be decrypted for free however "if you want to decrypt all your files, you need to pay." There were also deadlines for the payment. After 3 days the price doubled to $600 and after 7 the files would be deleted and forever lost. The malware also boasted a countdown meter to inform how much time was left before the deletion of files would occur.
Screenshot of the ransom note left on an infected system.
Reports of the initial attack came from Spain with the country's largest telecom company being hit with the ransomware. Afterwards reports came flooding in from at least 16 different hospitals across the United Kingdom and facilities in Scotland of computer systems freezing. Pop-ups appeared demanding $300 in bitcoins for the decryption of files. It has now become clear that WannaCry ransomware is a viral pandemic that is affecting computers worldwide.
The U.S Department of Homeland Security informed they are working with "international cyber partners" in wake of the global attacks. When asked if the attacks had impacted networks in the US, Scott McConnell, Acting Deputy Press Secretary for the DHS, stated that "we routinely provide cybersecurity assistance upon request, including technical analysis and support. Information shared with DHS as part of these efforts, including whether a request has been made, is confidential."
Alerts have been issued by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services:
"HHS is aware of a significant cybersecurity issue in the U.K. and other international locations affecting hospitals and healthcare information systems. We are also aware that there is evidence of this attack occurring inside the United States. We are working with our partners across government and in the private sector to develop a better understanding of the threat and to provide additional information on measures to protect your systems. We advise that you continue to exercise cybersecurity best practices - particularly with respect to email."
At this moment it is unknown as to where the WannaCry ransomware is originating from but researchers around the world are scrambling to pinpoint and disable as there is no known decryption key at this time. The infection of one computer can compromise an entire network, so it is highly recommended that computers infected with the virus be shut down and disconnected from networks to limit the spread.