LONDON (CBS4) – The European Union’s police agency warns more internet users will likely fall victim to the international “ransomware” cyberattack Monday morning as people return to work there and turn on their computers.
The virus has already struck more than 100,000 organizations in at least 150 countries, according to Europol’s spokesman. Included among them are Britain’s hospital network, Germany’s national railway, Spain’s telephone system, Russia’s largest mobile phone company, several university networks in China, and American company FedEx.
The global hack that began Friday is already thought to be the biggest online extortion attack ever recorded.
Britain’s National Cyber Security Center credited a 22-year-old British cybersecurity researcher for unintentionally discovering a “kill switch” that stemmed the speed of the virus. The researcher, identified only only as MalwareTech, had assistance from a 20-something security engineer in the U.S. and an inexpensive domain registration.
The virus is disguised in emails as invoices and security warnings. Once opened, it freezes computers, encrypts data, and demands $300 payment in online bitcoins to have the data decoded. Users are warned the fee doubles after three days and the data is destroyed if the demands are ignored.