Global cyberattack: What you need to know

An employee sits next to a payment terminal out of order at a branch of Ukraine's state-owned bank Oschadbank after Ukrainian institutions were hit by a wave of cyber attacks earlier in the day in Kiev Ukraine

Ransomware - which scrambles a computer's data until a payment is made - has grown explosively over the past couple of years, powered in part by the growing popularity of digital currencies such as Bitcoin.

Like a previous attack that affected more than 150 countries on May 12, Tuesday's virulent outbreak appeared to be powered by a US cyberweapon stolen from the National Security Agency. The United States was investigating the attack and determined to hold those responsible accountable, it said.

"Microsoft now has evidence that a few active infections of the ransomware initially started from the legitimate MEDoc updater process", it said in a technical blog post.

Production at the Cadbury factory on the island state of Tasmania ground to a halt late on Tuesday after computer systems went down, said Australian Manufacturing and Workers Union state secretary John Short.

The rapidly spreading computer worm appeared to be a variant of an existing ransomware family known as Petya which also has borrowed key features from last month's ransomware attack, named "WannaCry".

M.K. Sirkar, a manager at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust in Mumbai, said that no containers could be loaded or unloaded at the terminal operated by shipper A.P. Moller-Maersk on Wednesday.

Companies in six other countries were also hit, after Ukraine declared it had been struck by the biggest cyberattack in its history.

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After the WannaCry scourge in May, Microsoft urged users to protect machines with the MS17-010 patch.

About 2,000 users had been attacked as of midday Tuesday in North America (Wednesday morning in Thailand), according to Kaspersky Lab analysts, with organisations in Russian Federation and the Ukraine the most affected.

A risky ransomware attacks computers in Europe, Russia, Ukraine, Britain and U.S.

Top IT security firms have warned that the latest "Petya" malware could be particularly potent as it uses "multiple techniques" to automatically spread in a network soon after the first system is infected. The prime minister cautioned that the country's "vital systems" hadn't been affected. Sea Containers, the London building that houses WPP and agencies including Ogilvy & Mather, had been shut down, another person said. "Rather than running this risk, companies should work with data recovery experts who may be able to regain access to data by reverse engineering the malware", said Phil Bridge, managing director, Western Europe, data & storage technologies, Kroll Ontrack. "The building has come to a standstill", the employee said.

The virus, which locked up files at companies and government agencies including the Chernobyl nuclear site and demanded a payment worth $300, appeared similar to the WannaCry ransomware that swept the world last month, hitting more than 200,000 users in more than 150 countries. Perhaps you are busy looking for a way to recover your files, but don't waste your time.

Russia's central bank said there were isolated cases of lenders' IT systems being infected.

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