'WannaCry' ransomware attack: What we know so far

Experts said it appeared that the ransomware had made just over $32,000, although they expected that number to pop when people went back into the office Monday.

He said it was too early to say who is behind the onslaught and what their motivation was.

The 200,000 victims included more than 100,000 organizations, Europol spokesman Jan Op Gen Oorth told The Associated Press.

The hackers used the tool to encrypt files within affected computers, making them inaccessible, and demanded ransom - typically US$300 in bitcoin.

The effects were felt across the globe, with Russia's Interior Ministry and companies including Spain's Telefonica, FedEx Corp.in the US and French carmaker Renault all reporting disruptions.

Had it not been for a young cybersecurity researcher's accidental discovery of a so-called "kill switch", the malicious software likely would have spread much farther and faster that it did Friday.

"As a result, cybercriminals will continue their activity and look for new ways to exploit systems that result in more infections and more money in their accounts", Europol said in a statement.

Nonetheless, the experts say such widespread attacks are tough to pull off.

The aggressive malware, dubbed WannaCrypt, utilized a previously reported vulnerability found within the Windows operating system produced by Microsoft. "The WannaCrypt exploits used in the attack were drawn from the exploits stolen from the National Security Agency, or NSA, in the United States". Users are then asked to pay the attackers a "ransom" to regain control, but Mr MacGibbon said businesses were better off relying on their backups if they have them.

Called WannaCry or WannaCrypt, the ransomware program is spread by taking advantage of a Windows vulnerability that Microsoft released a security patch for in March.

"That's what makes this more troubling than ransomware was a week ago", Thakur said.

Microsoft has already released a patch for the latest Windows 10 operating system which is mandatory to download.

Chinese media reported that more than 29,000 institutions in the country had been struck by Saturday evening, with universities and other educational entities the hardest hit, along with railway services and retailers.

It is unclear whether MalwareTech's tracker is counting each query to the domain - which would include people simply navigating to the website out of curiosity - or whether it has filtered for actual infections.

Special adviser to the Prime Minister on Cyber Security Alastair MacGibbon said the first thing Australians should do when they get in to work on Monday is update their Microsoft software. But some experts have argued this attack could have been vastly mitigated if the NSA told Microsoft sooner.

"This attack is a powerful reminder that information technology basics like keeping computers current and patched are a high responsibility for everyone, and it's something every top executive should support", said Smith. "But there's clearly some culpability on the part of the US intelligence services".

"They have been working I know through the night nearly to make sure patches are in place to make sure that hopefully the NHS services can get back to normal", he told BBC radio.

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