A massive new international cyber attack via a ransomware virus dubbed Petya has caused havoc to businesses across Europe and is spreading elsewhere.
Several major corporations on Tuesday said they had been targeted in the cyber attack which started in Ukraine and Russia before hitting other European countries.
Danish shipping giant Maersk, Russia’s Rosneft oil firm, British advertising agency WPP and the French industrial group Saint-Gobain all said they came under attack and put protection protocols in place to avoid data loss.
One of the countries particularly hit was Ukraine, where serious intrusions at the power grid, banks and government offices were experienced. Boryspil Airport in the capital, Kiev, was also affected.
Researchers with multiple technology companies identified the ransomware as Petya, malware that makes computers inoperable by encrypting their hard drives and demands ransoms in exchange for a digital key to restore access.
The cyber attack comes as the world is still recovering from a previous outbreak of ransomware, called WannaCrypt, which spread rapidly since mid-May using digital break-in tools originally created by the US National Security Agency and recently leaked to the web.
The spread of the WannaCry ransomware which locked up hundreds of thousands of computers in more than 150 countries has slowed in June, but security experts have warned that new versions of the worm may strike.