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Australia Sleeps Through ‘Biggest Ransomware Attack In History’

Australians look to have dodged a bullet when it comes to the WannaCrypt (also known as WannaCry) ransomware that wreaked havoc over the weekend.

While the cyber-attack affected over 200,000 users in 150 different countries over the weekend, early reports have estimated the number of Australian incidents at only 3.

What’s more, these incidents look to have been constrained to the private sector. Unlike other countries, it looks like Australia’s private sector has made it through the worst of the attack relatively unscathed.

According to the Australian governments cyber-security minister Dan Tehan, “there has been one incident of the ransomware hitting a business here in Australia and there could be two other incidents where it has occurred, although we are trying to confirm that.”

Speaking to Sky on Sunday, he advised Australian business boardrooms to be conscious of the impacts of ransomware.

WannaCrypt renders a computer unusable by encrypting all the files on it and then extorts the user in order to unlock them.

Over the weekend, the malware made headlines when it sabotaged Britain’s hospital network and Germany’s national railway as well as a number of Chinese and Russian state services. It is also understood that the attack even affected American companies.

A Fedex spokesperson told The Register that they had experienced “interference with some of our Windows-based systems caused by malware. We are implementing remediation steps as quickly as possible. We regret any inconvenience to our customers.”

At this time, it is widely believed to be the biggest online extortion attack in history.

The effects were so widespread that Microsoft even took the “highly unusual” step of releasing security updates for out of date operating systems like Windows XP and Vista.

Symantec Security Expert Nick Savvides says that “Ransomware is a major problem in Australia, and this attack is no different. This is not a targeted attack, which means many people will receive the malicious emails. Symantec and Norton protect millions of users in Australia and the telemetry has shown that Australians have been targeted with most attacks being blocked.”

“According to Symantec’s latest Internet Threat Security Report (ISTR), Australia was third highest country in APJ at risk of ransomware, and 11th in the world.”

That said, he advises that both Symantec and Norton customers are protected against WannaCry using a combination of technologies.

Fortunately, the spread of WannaCrypt was unceremoniously halted when a security researcher registered a previously-unregistered domain being queried by the malware. That said, some have already warned that this may only be a temporary fix.

It is understood that the cyber-attack was executed upon a number of the NSA cyber-security exploits and tools, leaked to the public last month.

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