The unprecedented global ransomware cyberattack has hit more than 200,000 victims in more than 150 countries, Europol executive director Rob Wainwright said Sunday.
Jan Op Gen Oorth, spokesman for the Netherlands-based Europol, said the number of individuals who have fallen victim to the cyberextortion attack could be much higher.
Darien Huss, a 28-year-old research engineer who assisted the anonymous British researcher lauded a hero, said he was "still anxious for what's to come in the next few days because it really would not be so hard for the actors behind this to re-release their code without a kill switch or with a better kill switch".
Cybersecurity experts said the spread of the virus dubbed WannaCry - "ransomware" which locked up more than 200,000 computers - had slowed, but the respite might only be brief. I am anxious about how the numbers will continue to grow when people go to work and turn on their machines on Monday morning.
Friday's attack was the latest in the growing menace of ransomware in which hackers deliver files to computers that automatically encrypt their data, making it unusable until a ransom is paid.
The malware, which locks files and asks for payment to unlock them, hit businesses and institutions across the world, including shipper FedEx, train systems in Germany, a Spanish telecommunications company, universities in Asia, Russia's interior ministry and forced hospitals in Britain to turn away patients. Just a few days ago a global cyber attack was launched using the "WannaCry" ransomware. Experts say this vulnerability has been understood among experts for months, yet too many groups failed to take it seriously. A "patch" is a piece of software created to update a computer program or its supporting data, to fix or improve it.
Because Windows Server 2003 or older, and Windows XP or older on the desktop, have been discontinued by Microsoft and are unsupported, these systems are particularly vulnerable. "They get well resourced for their information technology".
The identity of the hacker who perpetrated the wave of attacks remains unknown.
A huge extortion cyber attack had hit dozens of nations yesterday, holding computer data for ransom at hospitals, telecommunications firms and other companies.
Experts advise people not to pay, as it would only encourage the attackers, there is no guarantee that they will unblock files, and may result in them gaining access to victims' bank details.
Kaspersky said it was seeking to develop a decryption tool "as soon as possible". The NSA tools were stolen by hackers and dumped on the internet.
A young British cybersecurity researcher discovered a so-called "kill switch" for the attack, limiting the damage.
It remained unclear how many organizations had already lost control of their data to the malicious software - and researchers warned that copycat attacks could follow.