New wave of ransomware attacks leaves black screens

Investigators work at the scene of a car bomb explosion which killed a high-ranking official involved in military intelligence in Kiev

Other companies that said they had been hit by a presumed cyber attack included Russian metal maker Evraz, French construction materials firm Saint Gobain and the world's biggest advertising agency, WPP - though it was not clear if their problems were caused by the same virus.

"The hacking attack could have led to serious consequences but neither the oil production nor the processing has been affected thanks to the fact that the company has switched to a reserve control system", the company said.

The companies affected were hit by a type of ransomware that locks users out of the computer and demands purchase of a key to reinstate access, Group IB said.

Like a previous attack that swept into more than 150 countries on May 12, Tuesday's virulent outbreak appeared to be powered by a US cyber weapon stolen from the National Security Agency.

But global cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab said: "Our preliminary findings suggest that it is not a variant of Petya ransomware as publically reported, but a new ransomware that has not been seen before", which it named "NotPetya".

The Danish shipping giant said it had been hit across multiple regions by a computer outage.

The malware attack follows another recent scourge of ransomware known as WannaCry, which infected computers in more than 150 countries.

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The latest global ransomware virus has spread fast after initially affecting computer systems in Ukraine, but how exactly does it work? It also called for companies to take digital risks seriously and invest now in increased cyber security.

The attacks started around 2pm Moscow time (9pm AEST) and quickly spread to 80 companies in Ukraine and Russian Federation, said cybersecurity company Group IB. "We are now asserting the situation", the company said.

What do we know so far in Ukraine? .

Banks were experiencing "difficulty in servicing customers and performing banking operations" due to the attacks, the bank said.

Ukraine first reported Tuesday's cyberattacks, saying they targeted government ministries, banks, utilities and other important infrastructure and companies nationwide, airport departure tables and demanding ransoms from government employees in the cryptocurrency bitcoin. The police believe it was a "terrorist attack". "We are assessing the situation and are implementing remediation steps as quickly as possible", the company, part of FedEx, said.

Reports said the Kiev metro system stopped accepting payment cards while several chains of petrol stations suspended operations.

"The self-spreading "WannaCry" internet worm, which ripped through 160,000 computers and crippled hospitals and other businesses, is now being linked to a North Korean cyber gang", reports Kevin Poulsen at Daily Beast.

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