Ransomware Reaches Asia-Pacific, Though Focus Remains on Europe

A cargo terminal at a bustling Mumbai port lurched to a stop. Threatening text filled computer screens at a chocolate factory in Tasmania. The Australian offices of a multinational law firm told employees to avoid email.

The Asia-Pacific region on Wednesday grappled with a cyberattack that struck Europe and the United States the day before. It was the second time in two months that hackers tried to shake down computer users around the globe by threatening to delete their data unless they paid up.

Yet the spread appeared somewhat limited in Asia as of midday Wednesday compared with a similar attack in May, when software called WannaCry introduced the term “ransomware” to much of the world. The reason the cyberattack was less widespread was not immediately clear, though experts expressed doubt that the world had learned its lesson and properly prepared for an era of increasingly common global hacking attacks.

Like the WannaCry attack last month, computers struck by the virus displayed a message that said its data had been encrypted and demanded a ransom — in this case, $300 — to decrypt it. Experts said the malware that hit computers on Tuesday was similar to a virus called Petya, which was first identified last year. The attack was judged by some experts to be more dangerous because it could spread across networks via a single affected computer.

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