A wave of cyberattacks that hit Ukraine and Russia is spreading beyond the borders of those countries, wreaking havoc on government and corporate computer systems in Europe and across the Atlantic.
Banks, government offices and airports in Ukraine were among the first to report the cyberattack. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Pavlo Rozenko tweeted a photo of his black computer screen with a warning massage, saying the government’s headquarters had been shut down.
Multiple international firms reported being affected Tuesday. They include America’s Merck pharmaceutical company, Russia’s Rosneft oil giant, the Danish shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk, British advertising giant WPP and French industrial group Saint-Gobain.
“We confirm our company’s computer network was compromised today as part of global hack. Other organizations have also been affected,” Merck said on Twitter.
Anders Rosendahl, a spokesman for A.P. Moller-Maersk, said the attack had “affected all branches” of the shipping group, both at home and abroad.
IT experts have identified the virus as a type of ransomware — a program that is often used to hold data “hostage” until a payment is delivered.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it is monitoring the attacks and is in contact with its international and domestic partners.
“We stand ready to support any requests for assistance,” officials said in a statement.
British Defense Minister Michael Fallon spoke earlier at a conference hosted by the Chatham House policy institute in London. He did not address the attack, but discussed how Britain is responding in general to cybersecurity concerns.
“We are investing a huge chunk of money — some £1.9 billion [$2.4 billion] — into boosting our cybersecurity,” he said.
Europol’s European Cybercrime Center has told anyone affected by Tuesday’s attack to report the crime to national police and encouraged them not to pay any ransom requested by hackers.
VOA’s Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.