Hackers strike across Europe as firms in Ukraine, Denmark and Britain hit by massive cyber attack

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  • Huge cyber attack cripples firms, airports, banks and government departments in Ukraine
  • Hack may have spread to Britain, with the advertising firm WPP affected
  • Rotterdam-based shipping firm also paralysed by attack
  • Virus ‘a form of ransomware’

Major firms, airports and government departments in Ukraine have been struck by a massive cyber attack which began to spread across Europe on Tuesday afternoon. 

In Ukraine, government departments, the central bank, a state-run aircraft manufacturer,  the airport in Kiev and  the metro network have all been paralysed by the hack.

In the UK, the advertising firm WPP said its systems had also been struck down, while in the Netherlands a major shipping firm confirmed its computer terminals were malfunctioning. 

The virus is believed to be ransomware – a piece of malicious software that shuts down a computer system and then demands an extortionate sum of money to fix the problem. 

It comes just a few weeks after the WannaCry hack which affected more than 150 countries and crippled parts of the NHS. 

A programer shows a sample of a ransomware cyberattack on a laptop in Taipei, Taiwan

A programer shows a sample of a ransomware cyberattack on a laptop in Taipei, Taiwan

American and British analysts believe that attack, which unfolded in May, was carried out by North Korea. It remains unclear who is responsible for Tuesday’s attack. 

“The National Bank of Ukraine has warned banks… about an external hacker attack on the websites of some Ukrainian banks… which was carried out today,” Ukraine’s central bank said in a statement. 

A spokesman for Ukraine’s Presidential Administration said it was paying “a high level of attention” to the situation.

Maersk, a Dutch transport and logistics company, announced that “multiple sites and business units” had been shut down after a cyber attack. 

It came as Russian oil giant Rosneft said that its servers had suffered a “powerful” cyberattack, as the company is locked in a bitter court fight with the Russian conglomerate Sistema.

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‘We were told to turn off our computers’

An employee at WPP quoted by MailOnline said they were told to switch off their computers – at which point many workers decided to nip out for a drink. 

“We were told to turn our computers off straight away and not to use the WiFi or servers,” the unnamed employees said. 

“Most people just left the building and went to the pub.”

WPP employs around 250,000 workers worldwide. 


Spanish firms affected

The attack may have spread to Spain, with several multi-nationals reporting issues, according to local media. 


Cyber security expert: Ransomware to blame

“We are looking into the ransomware activity that has reportedly disrupted organizations in Ukraine and elsewhere,” said John Miller, a security expert at FireEye.

At this point, we are investigating whether the activity constitutes a significantly novel threat or an extension of known issues, as widespread ransomware campaigns are a regular occurrence at this time.

Victims are reporting that a variant of the Petya ransomware is responsible; Petya is a well-understood ransomware type that we have reported on since 2016.


Shipping container terminals in Rotterdam shut down

Maersk, a Danish shipping firm, has confirmed that 17 of its shipping container terminals have been crippled by the same cyber attack which hit Ukraine. 


Russian oil giant hacked

Russian oil giant Rosneft has said that its servers had suffered a “powerful” cyberattack, as the company is locked in a bitter court fight with the Russian conglomerate Sistema.

“A powerful hacking attack has been carried out against the company’s servers,” Rosneft said on Twitter, adding that it “hopes” the incident was “not connected to current legal proceedings”.

A tweet from an account belonging to Ukraine deputy prime minister,  Rozenko Pavlo,  appeared to show first-hand the effects of the hack. 


WPP confirms hack

A spokesman for WPP has confirmed that the British advertising firm is also a victim of the hack.