Australia and NZ largely escape global cyber attack

People are anxious a second wave of cyberattacks could strike around the world on Monday as employees return to their desks and log onto their computers.

Moreover, copycat variants of the malicious software behind the attacks have begun to spread, according to experts.

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

The attacks exploit a vulnerability in outdated versions of Microsoft Windows that is particularly problematic for corporations that don't automatically update their systems. "We can surely expect more".

"At the moment we are in the face of an escalating threat, the numbers are going up, I am anxious about how the numbers will continue to grow when people go to work and turn their machines on Monday morning", he said.

Britain's National Cyber Security Center said Sunday it had seen "no sustained new attacks" but warned that compromised computers might not have been detected yet and that the malware could further spread within networks.

The viral attack was stopped by an accidental samaritan, who wanted to be identified only as MalwareTech. But neither the federal government nor USA corporations assume this will continue to be the case.

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WASHINGTON/FRANKFURT, May 14 (Reuters) - Officials across the globe scrambled over the weekend to catch the culprits behind a massive ransomware worm that disrupted operations at vehicle factories, hospitals, shops and schools, while Microsoft on Sunday pinned blame on the USA government for not disclosing more software vulnerabilities.

Spanish telco giant Telefonica and U.S. delivery service FedEx were among the businesses affected.

Another major cyber-attack could be imminent after Friday's global hit that infected more than 125,000 computer systems, security experts have warned.

The 22-year-old researcher known as "MalwareTech", who wanted to remain anonymous, said he spotted a hidden web address in the "WannaCry" code and made it official by registering its domain name.

Europol chief Rob Wainwright said more than 200,000 victims had been hit in more than 150 countries.

But from there, WannaCry exploits a fault in Microsoft's Windows system to spread quickly around an organisation's internal network.

Robert Pritchard, a former cybersecurity expert at Britain's defense ministry, said security specialists might not be able to keep pace with the hackers. "That's not to say that the attacks are new - it's a repercussion of what happened on Friday". However, he said it's only a matter of time before a malevolent version exists. "This is probably version 2.1, and it has the potential to be much more effective - assuming security defenders haven't spent all weekend patching", he said. Once installed, the malware just locks up that computer without spreading to other machines.

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Microsoft has complained for years that a large majority of computers running its software are using pirated versions. Although Microsoft released fixes in March, the attackers counted on many organisations not getting around to applying those fixes.

Brad Smith, Microsoft's top lawyer, on Sunday criticized USA intelligence agencies, including the CIA and National Security Agency, for "stockpiling" software code that can be used by hackers, the Associated Press reported.

The computing giant said software vulnerabilities hoarded by governments have caused "widespread damage".

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop previously said authorities were working to validate if reports of cyber attacks in the country were linked to the global attack.

The Scottish Government is confident that no more public services will be affected after it acted to boost computer security in 120 public bodies following the weekend news that 13 health boards in Scotland had been subjected to infection by the Wanna Decryptor ransomware, also known as WannaCry.

"We weren't able to ingest the threat vector, which was probably an email that contained this malicious code in it, or a link to malicious code, and as a effect we were probably better protected than our European cousins".

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