A global cyber-attack using hacking tools widely believed to have been developed by the US National Security Agency and leaked online by a group called the Shadow Brokers has caused chaos around the world.
British hospitals, the Russian government, German railways and big companies like FedEx were among those affected on Friday when they were crippled by the ‘ransomware’ that rapidly spread across the globe and infected tens of thousands of computers in 74 countries.
Security experts say the malicious software behind the onslaught appeared to exploit a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows that was identified by the US National Security Agency for its own intelligence-gathering purposes.
The NSA documents were stolen and then released to the world last month by a mysterious group known as the Shadow Brokers.
The hackers, who have not come forward to claim responsibility, likely made it a ‘worm’, or self-spread malware, by exploiting a piece of NSA code known as Eternal Blue, according to several security experts.
The Shadow Brokers released Eternal Blue last month as part of a trove of hacking tools that they said belonged to the US spy agency. It has stoked fears that the spy agency’s powerful cyber weapons had been stolen and repurposed by hackers with nefarious goals.
The malicious software was blocking access to computers and demanding payments of as much as $600 to restore access and scrambling data. It is thought to have impacted at least 57,000 computers, including machines in the Russian government.