Hacking

‘Petya’ Ransomware Attack Strikes Firms Across Europe And US

San Francisco: Victims of a major ransomware cyberattack that has spread through the US and Europe can no longer unlock their computers even if they pay the ransom, says a report by the Guardian.

The “Petya” ransomware has caused serious disruption at large firms including the advertising giant WPP, French construction materials company Saint-Gobain and Russian steel and oil firms Evraz and Rosneft.

Infected computers display a message demanding a Bitcoin ransom worth $300. Those who pay are asked to send confirmation of payment to an email address. However, that email address has been shut down by the email provider.

“We do not tolerate any misuse of our platform,” said the German email provider Posteo in a blog post.

This means that there is no longer any way for people who decide to pay the ransom to contact the attacker for a decryption key to unlock their computer.

The attack was first reported in Ukraine, where the government, banks, state power utility and Kiev’s airport and metro system were all affected. The radiation monitoring system at Chernobyl was taken offline, forcing employees to use hand-held counters to measure levels at the former nuclear plant’s exclusion zone.

The food giant Mondelez, legal firm DLA Piper, Danish shipping and transport giant AP Moller-Maersk and Heritage Valley Health System, which runs hospitals and care facilities in Pittsburgh, also said their systems had been hit by the malware.

WPP said in a statement that the computer systems at several of its subsidiary companies had been affected, adding that it was “assessing the situation and taking appropriate measures”.

In an internal memo to staff, one WPP firm said it was the target of “a massive global malware attack, affecting all Windows servers, PCs and laptops”. It warned employes to turn off and disconnect all machines using Windows.

Some technology experts said the attack appeared consistent with an “updated variant” of a virus known as Petya or Petrwrap, a ransomware that locks computer files and forces users to pay a designated sum to regain access.

But analysts at cyber security firm Kaspersky Labs said they had traced the infections to “a new ransomware that has not been seen before”. Kaspersky said the “NotPetya” attack had hit 2,000 users in Russia, Ukraine, Poland, France, Italy, the UK, Germany and the US.

Last month’s WannaCry or WannaCrypt ransomware attack affected more than 230,000 computers in over 150 countries, with the UK’s national health service, Spanish phone giant Telefónica and German state railways among those hardest hit.