The White House and federal cybersecurity officials scrambled over the weekend to grapple with a "ransomware" cyberattack that hit 200,000 computers in more than 150 countries, according to the European police agency Europol. But while a few U.S. institutions are known to have been affected by the malware, believed to have exploited stolen NSA cyber tools, most of the damage has been reported in Europe and Asia, including freezing up many British National Health Service hospital systems. The biggest victim, however, was Russia, according to the Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab. And Russian officials are pretty upset.
"Humanity is dealing here with cyberterrorism," Frants Klintsevich, a top official on the Russian Senate's defense committee, told Russia's state-run Tass news agency. "It's an alarming signal, and not just a signal but a direct threat to the normal functioning of society, and important life-support systems." The goal of the attack, which freezes hard drives and servers until a ransom is paid, was possibly "frightening the whole world," he added. "The attacks hit hospitals, railroad transport, and police." Older and unlicensed versions of the Windows operating system were particularly vulnerable to the attack.
Russia experts were split on whether the U.S. government carried out the attack, presumably in retaliation for Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election — a charge Russia denies by all U.S. intelligence agencies agree happened. "I respect the honesty of the United States," Mikhail Delyagin, director of the Institute of Problems of Globalization in Russia, tells The New York Times. "They threaten us with a cyberattack, and a cyberattack follows. It's logical." Igor Ashmanov, a member of the state Council for Digital Economy, argued that "special state cyberforces evidently would not exercise such a stupid attack," adding that such an attack by the U.S. or another government would be considered an act or war.
You can learn more about the cyberattack in the BBC News report below. Peter Weber