Major ransomware cyber-attack affects companies, hospitals worldwide

The attack uses hacking tools stolen recently from the US National Security Agency, which lock users out of their data and demand a ransom in exhange for access. So far, about 57,000 infections have been observed.
Photo credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News

A large-scale cyber-attack has infected computer systems in 99 countries using a hacking software developed by the United States National Security Agency.

The attack has hit companies, schools, hospitals and governmental offices worldwide. Computer hackers sent malicious attachments via emails which appeared to contain job offers or security warnings. Once opened, the software locked users out of their computers, demanding a ransom in exchange for data access.

Researchers said about 57,000 infections had been observed in 99 countries. Some victims are reported to have paid the ransom using the digital currency bitcoin.

First reports of the cyber-attack were made in the UK after it affected several hospitals, forcing them to divert emergency patients and postpone non-urgent treatments.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said there was no evidence "that patient data has been compromised."

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