Next cyber-attack could be imminent, warn experts

He warned of the danger of exploits developed by governments - this time the NSA in America - falling into the hands of hackers and causing widespread damage as is the case with the current attack which has crippled more than 200,000 computers across 150 countries including India.

He said no critical infrastructure operators or government agencies had been impacted.

Wannacry ransomware has been creating a ruckus all over the world and has been termed as the world's biggest ransomware attack. Once it infects one computer within a network, it can spread to all the computers in that network "within seconds", said Israel Levy, the CEO of the cybersecurity firm Bufferzone.

On Friday, media reports started highlighting that a ransomware attack had brought down computer systems in United Kingdom hospitals.

Cyber security experts say the spread of the virus dubbed WannaCry - "ransomware" which locked up computers in auto factories, hospitals, shops and schools in several countries - has slowed, but that any respite might be brief.

The "Wannacry" malware virus exploits a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows software, taking over computers and demanding a payment of $300 (£232) in the virtual currency Bitcoin to unlock files and return them to the user.

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That quick thinking may have saved governments and companies millions of dollars and slowed the outbreak before USA -based computers were more widely infected.

But Kingsley Manning, a former chairman of NHS Digital, said several hundred thousand computers were still running the out-of-date operating system.

Japanese broadcaster NTV reported 600 companies in that country had been hit, and automaker Nissan and the Hitachi conglomerate said they were addressing the problem at their units that were affected.

The effects were felt across the globe, with Russia's Interior Ministry and companies including Spain's Telefonica, FedEx the USA and French carmaker Renault all reporting disruptions.

Hunt speculates the ransomware could have originated from a phishing email, saying most organisation computers are behind firewalls, which would prevent any external hacking attempts.

The hospital also says it needs to cancel some patient appointments in order to "run services safely" and that affected patients will be directly contacted as hospital IT staff continue to bring the services back up to normal levels of operation. The city of Osaka said its home page went blank, although problems had not been detected otherwise.

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He said Europol and other agencies did not yet know who was behind the attack but "normally it is criminally minded and that is our first working theory for obvious reasons".

Microsoft said the governments of the world should treat the recent WannaCrypt attack as a wake-up call.

ATM machines are seen as being vulnerable since nearly all of them run on Windows software.

He told BBC Breakfast the Government had put £1.2 billion into combating cyber attacks during the last strategic defence and security review, including a £50 million pot to support NHS IT networks.

He said his research experience on targeted attacks made him doubt a nation state was involved here.

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