16:38 15 May 2017
A ransomware cyber attack that was carried out on Friday has affected more than 200,000 people in 150 countries; Russia and the UK were among the worst-hit countries. The virus took control of users’ files and blocked access to data until a ransom is paid.
Europol chief Rob Wainwright said that the act was “unprecedented in its scale” while experts said that another attack could be imminent. Computer users have been warned to ensure that their security is up to date.
Mr Wainwright said that the ransomware was combined with a worm application – a program that replicates itself in order to spread to other computers. It was found that the virus exploits a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows software and was first identified by the US National Security Agency.
He added: "That's why we're seeing these numbers increasing all the time."
In England, 48 National Health Service (NHS) trusts encountered problem at hospitals, GP surgeries or pharmacies. In Scotland, 13 NHS organisations were also affected. Others that were affected include Germany’s rail network Deutsche Bahn, Spanish telecommunications operator Telefonica, Russia’s interior ministry, and US logistics giant FedEx.
Mr Wainwright has confirmed that investigation is underway and that his agency is now working with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation to catch the hackers.