A 'second wave' of ransomware could broaden global cyberattack

Microsoft Windows users, brace yourselves. People are worried a second wave of cyberattacks could strike around the world on Monday as employees return to their desks and log onto their computers.

Security experts say the unprecedented ransomware attack that on Friday locked up computers across the globe including UK hospital, FedEx, train systems in Germany among other institutions in exchange for payment, could cause even more trouble as the work week begins.

On top of that, copycat versions of the malicious software have already started to spread.

"We are in the second wave," Matthieu Suiche of the cybersecurity firm Comae Technologies told the New York Times on Sunday.

Officials urged companies and organisations to update their Microsoft operating systems immediately to ensure networks aren't still vulnerable to more powerful variants of the malware known as WannaCry or WannaCrypt.

The outbreak, which began last Friday, is already believed to be the biggest online extortion scheme ever recorded.

WannaCry locks up computers, encrypts their data, and demands large Bitcoin payments, which begin at US$300 (S$422) and rise to US$600 before the software destroys files hours later. Cyber criminals targeted users in 150 nations, including the US, Russia, Brazil, Spain, and India, along with major government agencies, such as the UK's National Health Service and Germany's national railway.

Two researchers in their 20's had halted the ransomeware attack on Saturday after discovering and activating the software's "kill switch." The temporary fix initially helped slow down the rate of infected computers.

But some networks may have caught the malicious bug after workers went home, meaning the malware is already there, waiting for employees to power up their computers.

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