By Robert Njeru
There has been a major ransomware cyber-attack that has been targeting various companies across the globe.
British advertising agency WPP has reported that its IT systems have been disrupted by the ransomware.
The Windows-based sensors of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant have shut down, forcing the plant to monitor radiation levels manually.
Ukrainian firms like Kiev’s main airport and the state power company were among the first organizations to report issues.
Experts have compared the malware to the Wannacry attack that happened recently because it is taking advantage of the same weaknesses.
The international police organization Interpol has released a statement saying that it is liaising with its member countries while still “closely scrutinizing” the situation.
According to Prof Alan Woodward, a computer scientist, the malware initially looked like a variant of a piece of ransomware that emerged in 2016.
“The ransomware was referred to as Petya and the updated version Petrwrap,” he added.
Although this new ransomware resembles Petya, it has never been seen before, this is according to the Russian cyber security firm Kaspersky Lab. The firm has dubbed it NotPetya.
Kaspersky also said that it had detected suspected attacks in the UK, France, Poland, Italy, Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and the US.
The Russian cyber security firm has warned that such attacks are unlikely to stop because cyber-thieves are making a lot of money from them.
Andrei Barysevich, a spokesman for Kaspersky told the BBC that a South Korean hosting firm had recently paid $1m to get back its data.
Since this internet outbreak began, several payments have been deposited to a bitcoin wallet associated with the malware. At the moment, the wallet has 1.5 bitcoins – equivalent to $3,500.
German independent email provider Posteo has blocked an email address that is linked with the blackmail attempt.
Currently, the blackmailers are not in a position to check their mailbox.
The malware appears to be spreading through some of the same Windows code loopholes exploited by Wannacry, this is according to Veracode’s veteran security expert Chris Wysopal. He said that since Wannacry was tackled so quickly, a lot of firms did not patch up those holes.
Majority of the organizations being caught are industrial firms that often struggled to apply software patches quickly.
Danish shipping company Maersk, including its offices in the UK and Ireland as well as Russian oil producer Rosneft have also said that they are facing a disruption.
The Ukrainian central bank, the aircraft manufacturer Antonov, and two postal services have said that they have been struck.
Netherlands-based shipping company TNT said some of its systems needed “remediation”.
The offices of the food giant Mondelez – who produce Oreo and Toblerone – are also victims of the malware, this is according to Spanish media reports.
US companies have not been spared either, local offices of the law firm DLA Piper and the pharmaceuticals-maker Merck are also dealing with the devastation of these attacks.
Heritage Valley Health System, a US hospital operator, is also suffering from a shutdown computer network. However, IT experts have not established if this problem is also related to the ongoing attacks.
In France, St Gobain, a construction materials company, has reported that it has been affected by the malware.
The attacks have come just two months after another global ransomware assault, known as Wannacry. Computer scientists are currently working on a solution that will stop this attack and save companies from their misery.