Japan Wakes Up to Global “Ransomware” Cyber Attack

A screenshot of the warning screen from a purported ransomware attackA screenshot of the warning screen from a purported ransomware attack

The global “ransomware” cyber attack hit computers at 600 locations in Japan, but appeared to cause no major problems as people in the country started their workday on Monday, even as the attack caused chaos elsewhere.

The attack, known as “WannaCry,” paralyzed computers that run Britain’s hospital network, Germany’s national railroad and other companies and government agencies worldwide in what may be the largest online extortion scheme ever, CBC reported.

The attack held users hostage by freezing their computers, popping up a red screen with the words, “Oops, your files have been encrypted!” and demanding money through online bitcoin payment—$300 at first, rising to $600 before it destroys files hours later.

Hitachi Spokeswoman Yuko Tainiuchi said emails were slow or not getting delivered, and files could not be opened. The company believes the problems are related to the ransomware attack, although no ransom appears to have been demanded so far. They were installing software to fix the problems.

The Japan Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center, a nonprofit providing support for computer attacks, said 2,000 computers at 600 locations in Japan were reportedly affected so far, citing an affiliate foreign security organization that it cannot identify.

At least one hospital was affected, according to police.

The city of Osaka said its homepage suddenly went blank, although email and other problems had not been detected.

“We cannot confirm why this happened and we are in the middle of investigating,” said Hajime Nishikawa of the city hall’s IT division.

Eiichi Moriya, a cyber security expert and professor at Meiji University, said most major Japanese companies have already set up safeguards or a “patch” and should avert the attack, so that damage in Japan should be limited compared to other countries.

Iran has also been a victim of the same attack. An estimated 200 computers have been infected by the virus in the first reported incident by government officials.

The attacks in Iran have so far mainly targeted hospitals and medical centers, local technology websites CITNA reported.


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