Groups in 150 nations Hit by 'WannaCry' Cyberattack

Technical staff around the world scrambled to patch computers and restore infected ones amid fears that the ransomware worm that stopped vehicle factories, hospitals, shops and schools could wreak fresh havoc tomorrow when employees log back on.

The software giant is taking this "highly unusual" step to fight back against the WannaCrypt ransomware cyber attacks that have so far hit almost 100 countries around the world.

"We've never seen anything like this", he told ITV television. New variants of the rapidly replicating worm were discovered Sunday and one did not include the so-called kill switch that allowed researchers to interrupt its spread Friday by diverting it to a dead end on the internet. If ignored, they warned data would be destroyed. This will continue till the time the threat of infection is reduced or when the ATM systems are updated with the latest software and security updates.

The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team on Saturday had issued a note back in March about a potential vulnerability from the loophole in the operating system, and advised applying the relevant updates and patches to systems running on Windows. This exploit was leaked by a hacker group called the Shadow Brokers earlier this year but the vulnerability was patched by Microsoft as soon as it happened.

The NSA and Microsoft did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Experts say it will be hard for them to replicate the conditions that allowed the so-called WannaCry ransomware to proliferate across the globe. The NSA reportedly knew of the Heartbleed bug for at least two years in order to exploit it for intelligence gathering before the security vulnerability was revealed in 2014.

Targets both large and small have been hit.

Now that this "WannaCry" malware is out there, the world's computer systems are vulnerable to a degree they haven't been before, unless people everywhere move quickly to install Microsoft's security patches.

Among the other victims is a Nissan manufacturing plant in Sunderland, northeast England. That way if your machine gets infected and your photos and documents are encrypted, you don't need to worry about losing them.

Russia's Interior Ministry released a statement Friday acknowledging a ransomware attack on its computers, adding that less than 1% of computers were affected, and that the virus was now "localized" and being destroyed. No company - or hospital, or university, or individual - asks to be the victim of cybercrime, but there are also things companies can do to prevent the attacks from succeeding.

In Spain, major companies including telecommunications firm Telefonica have been infected.

Recovering from the virus could cost businesses billions of dollars as they try to become operational once more. There are government-backed initiatives to help small companies with cybersecurity, such as the UK's Cyber Essentials, but these don't have the scale to reach everyone or even identify and help those most in need. However, there is no confirmation on whether the access is restored after the amount is paid.