An unprecedented “ransomware” cyberattack that has already hit tens of thousands of victims in 150 countries could wreak even more havoc as people return to their desks and power up their computers at the start of the work week, the Associated Press reports. Experts urged organizations and companies to update their operating systems immediately to ensure they aren’t vulnerable to a second, more powerful version of the malicious software. The cyberattack paralyzed computers that run Britain’s hospital network, Germany’s national railway and scores of other companies and government agencies worldwide. The attack, already believed to be the biggest online extortion scheme ever recorded, is an “escalating threat” after hitting 200,000 victims across the world since Friday, said the head of Europol, Europe’s policing agency.
The 200,000 victims included more than 100,000 organizations, said Europol spokesman Jan Op Gen Oorth. He said it was too early to say who was behind the onslaught and what their motivation was, aside from the obvious demand for money. So far, not many people have paid the ransom demanded by the malware. The attack held users hostage by freezing their computers, encrypting their data and demanding money through online bitcoin payment, $300 at first, rising to $600 before it destroys files hours later.