International cyber attack

LINCOLN, Neb.- A cyber attack that is forcing computer owners to pay hundreds of dollars in ransom to unlock their files has hit almost every corner of the world.

F-Secure on Friday says it's gotten reports from more than 60 countries. Mikko Hypponen, its chief research officer, calls it "the biggest ransomware outbreak in history."

Security experts from Kaspersky Lab and Avast Software say Russia was the hardest hit, followed by Ukraine and Taiwan. Businesses from FedEx to Microsoft have been hit as well.

Nebraska State Senator Ben Sasse commented on the cyber attacks saying, “This is big: around the world, doctors and nurses are scrambling to treat patients without their digital records or prescription dosages, ambulances are being rerouted, and millions of people’s data is potentially exposed. Cybersecurity isn’t a hypothetical problem – today shows it can be life or death. We’ll likely look back at this as a watershed moment.”

Researchers believe a criminal organization is behind this, given its sophistication.

Kurt Baumgartner, principal security researcher at Kaspersky, says the malware has translations in dozens of languages, such that instructions for paying the ransom are displayed in the language set for that computer.

He and others say the malware takes advantage of an exploit purportedly identified by the National Security Agency. It encrypts data on infected computers and demands payment before the information is unencrypted.