Govt tells Aussies to report cyber attacks as Petya ransomware hits businesses

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A message demanding money is seen on a monitor of a payment terminal at a branch of Ukraine's state-owned bank Oschadbank. Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko

The government has urged Aussies to report all cases of cyber attacks to authorities on Wednesday morning. The announcement comes after the Petya cyber attack, which took out servers at Russia and disrupted Ukraine's banks, reached Australia.

The first Australian company hit was the Cadbury chocolate factory in Tasmania. The global ransomware attack has brought down its IT systems on Tuesday night. Operations were reportedly forced to stop.

Employees of Reckitt Benckiser have reportedly been sent home after the company’s system was hit by the attack. Reckitt Benckiser produces health and hygiene products like Durex and Air Wick.

Even law firm DLA Piper's Australian office was forced to a halt on Wednesday morning as it dealt with "a serious global cyber incident.” The law firm said on its website, "We have taken down our systems as a precautionary measure which will mean you are currently unable to contact us by email or landline."

DLA employees received text messages that instructed them not to log in to their computers or turn them on, The ABC reported. They were reportedly told they were likely to be locked out of their systems all day as the tech staff works through the issues.

The ransomware works by infecting computers within a network then spreading via the internet. Computers hit by the malware display a distinctive black screen and a red text instructing the user to pay a ransom of $300 worth of bitcoin for the computers to be unlocked.

Cyber security minister Dan Tehan described the attacks as a "wake-up call.” He urged small businesses to take immediate action to perk up their cyber security.

Tehan advised the affected computers should be isolated from the network to prevent the software spreading. Backup data can be used to restore information. "All businesses should immediately update their Windows operating system with the latest security patches and there are instructions on the ACSC website to do this,” he said, according to the Australian Financial Review.

Tehan said they are aware of the situation, which they are monitoring closely. Meanwhile, Posteo, the email provider where the Petya author hosts an inbox to handle victims of the ransomware outbreak, has opted to shut down the crook's email account: wowsmith123456@posteo.net.

The Petya attacks come after the WannaCry attacks, which caused major disruptions in many countries last month. The latest attacks have also already spread to some businesses in the United States.

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