NotPetya ransomware attack, New Zealand view

A computer screen cyberattack warning notice reportedly holding computer files to ransom as part of a massive international cyberattack at an office in Kiev Ukraine Tuesday

Hackers launched blistering ransomware attacks Tuesday against companies and agencies across the world, particularly targeting Ukranian businesses.

Using some of the same exploits as the WannaCry ransomware that struck last month, this version of Petya has the ability to worm through computer networks, gathering passwords and credentials and spreading itself.

Security researchers following Petya said that the malware, while damaging, isn't effective ransomware.

Since Tuesday, NotPetya - which infects computers on a local network and demands about $300 in Bitcoin to unscramble files - has made its prescence felt globally, with reports claiming that it has also hit transport firm TNT, Chernobyl radiation detection systems, a USA hospital and a chocolate factory in Australia.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation chief Jens Stoltenberg said the situation "underlines the importance of strengthening our cyber defences" as he warned hacking attacks could potentially trigger the US-led bloc's mutual defence commitment.

The Petya virus is very similar to the WannaCry virus that infected computer systems in over 150 countries in May.

"Due to the cyberattack, the website of the Chernobyl nuclear plant is not working", said Ukraine's exclusion zone agency which oversees the Soviet plant that exploded in 1986 and is now surrounded by an uninhabited contaminated zone.

In Amsterdam, the Dutch parcel delivery company TNT, which operates in 200 countries around the world, said its systems had been affected.

The cyberattack Tuesday caused disruptions at companies in 64 different countries, including America's Merck pharmaceutical company, Russia's Rosneft oil giant, British advertising agency WPP and French industrial group Saint-Gobain. Ukraine, which was hardest hit and where the attack likely originated, said it had secured critical state assets - though everyday life remained affected, with cash machines out of order and airport displays operating manually.

But even that massive figure looks set to be dwarfed within a few years, experts said, after ransomware attacks crippled computers worldwide in the past week.

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In March 2017, Microsoft released an update or "patch" that would protect users with Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10 systems from these ransomware attacks.

The incident was the second of such attack in two months.

"A massive ransomware campaign is now unfolding worldwide", said Romanian cybersecurity company Bitdefender. The organisation has since shut down the email account.

Unlike WannaCry, a "kill switch" for Petya has yet to be identified.

Tehan advised the affected computers should be isolated from the network to prevent the software spreading.

A number of Irish computer users have reported demands for up to €300 in Bitcoin to unlock their infected PCs.

Some experts said it looked likely to be a criminal scam, while Ukraine suggested that its archrival Russian Federation could have been behind the attack. "The computers used by various companies and Maersk's system, which handles the movement of ships is affected".

One of the terminals at the JNPT port has been impacted by the latest malware attack, the government confirmed today.

Like WannaCry, the new ransomware attack uses the EternalBlue tool to spread.

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