Conficker was a notorious Windows worm first spotted in 2008; it went on to infect over nine million computers in nearly 200 countries. The bug has also popped up in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
The hackers, who have not come forward to claim responsibility or otherwise been identified, likely made it a "worm", or self spreading malware, by exploiting a piece of NSA code known as "Eternal Blue" that was released last month by a group known as the Shadow Brokers, researchers with several private cyber security firms said.
The National Cyber Security Centre, part of the GCHQ electronic intelligence agency, said it was working with police and the health system to investigate the attack.
"We are aware that a number of NHS organisations have reported that they have suffered from a ransomware attack". "It finds all of your files and encrypts them and then leaves you a message. Nevertheless, the presence of this vulnerability appears to be the most significant factor that caused the outbreak". Microsoft has released software patches for the security holes, although not everyone has installed those updates.
"These attacks underscore the fact that vulnerabilities will be exploited not just by our security agencies, but by hackers and criminals around the world".
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The Spanish government said several companies including Telefonica had been targeted in ransomware cyberattack that affected the Windows operating system of employees' computers.
The computers all appeared to be hit with the same ransomware, and similar ransom messages demanding about $300 to unlock their data, The New York Times reports.
"The ransomware can spread without anyone opening an email or clicking on a link".
"There's no national boundary", Sulmeyer said. When asked to confirm that Wana Decryptor has struck in the US, and at what scale, Acting Deputy Press Secretary Scott McConnell did not provide specifics. Russian Federation appeared to be the hardest hit, according to security experts, with the country's Interior Ministry confirming it was struck. Attacks were also detected in Spain, the Philippines, and Kazakhstan, Turkey, Vietnam, Germany, Indonesia, and Japan.
Last November, the World Health Organization lifted its global Zika emergency, but has warned that Zika is "here to stay", even when cases decline, and that combating the virus will be a ongoing battle, the AP reported.
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"A number of NHS organisations have reported to NHS Digital that they have been affected by a ransomware attack", NHS Digital said in a statement.
Even if the NHS wasn't targeted, it took the brunt of the attack.
The unprecedented attack plunged the health service into chaos, forcing hospitals to cancel and delay treatment.
Losing electronic medical records and systems can bring hospitals to their knees, said John Halamka, chief information officer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. They said the system was down and that they can not transfer anyone till the computer system was back up so he is still in the theatre. "No computers are now working", they said, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to press.
At least 74 countries affected in 'biggest ever' cyberattack
There have been reports of infections in 99 countries, including the UK, US, China, Russia, Spain, Italy and Taiwan. The attack froze computers at hospitals across the country, with some cancelling all routine procedures.
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