A large-scale worldwide cyberattack is being reported today that is blocking access to computers, including hitting critical systems in hospitals, telecommunications and corporate offices. The Washington Post reports that the attack is taking advantage of a vulnerability that was originally uncovered by the National Security Agency here in the U.S.
“The reports of the malware spread began in Britain, where the National Health Service (NHS) reported serious problems throughout Friday,” The Post reports. “But officials and cybersecurity experts later described a far more extensive problem spreading across the Internet and unbounded by national borders.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May told reporters: “This is not targeted at the NHS. It’s an international attack, and a number of countries and organizations have been affected.”
“Cyber experts said the malicious software works by exploiting a flaw in Microsoft software that was described in NSA documents stolen from the agency and leaked publicly by a criminal group called Shadow Brokers,” The Post reports. “Microsoft released a patch fixing the flaw, but it was apparently applied inconsistently, with many computers continuing to be unprotected. The malicious software — called ‘ransomware’ because it encrypts systems and threatens to destroy data if a ransom is not paid — is spreading among computers that have not been patched, experts said.”
Tom Kellerman, chief executive of Strategic Cyber Ventures, noted that the health care industry is chronically hobbled by insufficient investment in computer security. “The most exploitable industry in the world is the health-care sector,” Kellerman said.
It was not immediately known how many countries are affected by the attack.