Microsoft issues WannaCry security patch for XP, blasts USA for 'stockpiling vulnerabilities'

"The global reach is unprecedented".

Many firms have had experts working over the weekend to prevent new infections.

A worldwide ransomware attack on Friday hit organizations across multiple continents, infecting FedEx and bringing down operations for at least 16 of the U.K. National Health Service's facilities.

The attack affected acute hospitals in Lanarkshire, as well as GP surgeries, dental practices and other primary care centres around the country. The Beijing News said that students at several universities around the country reported being hit by the virus, which blocked access to their thesis papers and dissertation presentations.

"You never want to pay a criminal as there is no honour amongst thieves but ultimately its going to be a business decision if they think they can not operate without these files", he said.

The attack looks like this: images appear on victims' screens demanding payment of $300 (275 euros) in the virtual currency Bitcoin, saying: "Ooops, your files have been encrypted!"

BBC analysis of three accounts linked with the global attack suggests the hackers have already been paid the equivalent of 22,080 pounds (USD 28,458).

A 22-year-old security researcher in the United Kingdom, who goes by MalwareTech, registered that domain to analyze the attack, but it turned out the ransomware needed it to remain unregistered to keep spreading.

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Organisations across the globe, including investigators from the National Crime Agency (NCA), are working to hunt down those responsible for the Wanna Decryptor ransomware, also known as WannaCry.

In the wake of the attack, Microsoft said it had taken the "highly unusual step" of releasing a patch for computers running older operating systems including Windows XP, Windows 8 and Windows Server 2003.

Run Windows Update: Updating your computer should ensure you have the latest security software to protect against viruses or malware. Despite the lack of regular support, Microsoft has released a few patches for the outdated Windows XP and even Windows Vista.

"The very nature of this particular malware, this sort of ransomware attack, is very potent because unlike more routine ones this one has used a sort of worm to exploit the operating system and bolted on a ransomware so that it spread incredibly quickly in hours not weeks or days", Wallace said. Victims have only hours to pay the ransom, which rises to $600 before the files are destroyed.

But experts and government alike warn against ceding to the hackers' demands. MalwareTech published a blog post early Saturday morning detailing how they stopped the spread of this ransomware.

An Indian-origin doctor based in London had warned against the cyber-hack of the NHS just days before it crippled the countrys network.

Hospitals, major companies and government offices were among those that were badly affected.

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