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Europe hit with another cyberattack; banks, power grid targeted

Several multinational companies in Europe said they were targeted in an international cyberattack.

India TV Tech Desk, Paris [ Published on: June 27, 2017 21:44 IST ]
Europe hit with another cyberattack
Europe hit with another cyberattack

Europe is grapling with a new and highly virulent outbreak of malicious data-scrambling software which appears to be causing mass disruption across the continet. Several multinational companies reported to be target of the international cyberattack which is belived to have been started in Russia and Ukraine before spreading to western Europe. 

Russia’s Rosneft oil company, Danish sea transport company Moller-Maersk, British advertising giant WPP and the French industrial group Saint-Gobain were among big firms that reported to be affected by the virus. They said they came under attack and put protection protocols in place to avoid data loss.

In Ukraine, company and government officials reported serious intrusions at the power grid, banks and government offices, where one senior official posted a photo of a darkened computer screen and the words, “the whole network is down.” 

Ukraine’s prime minister said the attack was unprecedented but that “vital systems haven’t been affected.”

The number of companies and agencies reportedly affected by the ransomware campaign was piling up fast, and the electronic rampage appeared to be rapidly snowballing into a real-world crisis. Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblaad says that container ship terminals in Rotterdam run by a unit of Maersk were also affected. Rosneft said that the company narrowly avoided major damage.

“The hacking attack could have led to serious consequences but neither the oil production nor the processing has been affected thanks to the fact that the company has switched to a reserve control system,” the company said.

There’s very little information about what might be behind the disruption at each specific company, but cybersecurity experts rapidly zeroed in on a form of ransomware, the name given to programs that hold data hostage by scrambling it until a payment is made.

“A massive ransomware campaign is currently unfolding worldwide,” said Romanian cybersecurity company Bitdefender. In a telephone interview, Bitdefender analyst Bogdan Botezatu said that he had examined samples of the program and that it appeared to be nearly identical to GoldenEye, one of a family of hostage-taking programs that has been circulating for months.

It’s not clear whether or why the ransomware has suddenly become so much more potent, but Botezatu said that it was likely spreading automatically across a network, without the need for human interaction. Self-spreading software, often described as “worms,” are particularly feared because they can spread rapidly, like a contagious disease.

“It’s like somebody sneezing into a train full of people,” said Botezatu. “You just have to exist there and you’re vulnerable.”

The world is still recovering from a previous outbreak of ransomware, called WannaCry or WannaCrypt, which spread rapidly using digital break-in tools originally created by the U.S. National Security Agency and recently leaked to the web.

This particular variant of ransomware leaves a message with a contact email; several messages sent to the address were not immediately returned.

(With AP inputs) 

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