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Renault to re-open factories Monday after ransomware cyber attack

AFP file / CHARLY TRIBALLEAU | The entrance of the Renault factory in Sandouville, France, on January 29, 2013

Factories of the French car-making giant Renault which had been closed by the massive cyber attack that affected 150 countries over the weekend would resume operation Monday, a representative said.


“Starting yesterday evening all our sites have been gradually returning to normal,” the spokesperson told Reuters. “Almost all factories should be ready to restart their activity tomorrow.”

Renault said Saturday it had halted manufacturing at plants in Sandouville, France, and Romania as a precaution as the unprecedented ransomware attack, which began Friday, touched businesses and government offices from Russia to Mexico.

The Paris prosecutor’s office opened an investigation Saturday into the cyber attack. The investigation will be run by the department on cyber crime and communication technology (OCLCTIC).

Ransom demanded from companies across the globe

Jan Op Gen Oorth, spokesman for the Netherlands-based Europol, said it was too early to say who is behind the onslaught and what their motivation was. The main challenge for investigators was the fast-spreading capabilities of the malware, he said, but added that so far, not many people have paid the ransoms that the virus demands.

The attack held hospitals and other entities hostage by freezing their computers, encrypting their data and demanding money through online bitcoin payment - $300 at first, rising to $600 before it destroys files hours later.

The effects were felt across the globe, with Russia's interior ministry and companies including Spain's Telefonica, FedEx Corp. in the US and French carmaker Renault all reporting disruptions.

On Sunday, Chinese media reported that students at several universities were hit by the virus, which blocked access to their thesis papers and their dissertation presentations.

Accidental hero

Had it not been for a young cybersecurity researcher's accidental discovery of a so-called "kill switch", the malicious software likely would have spread much farther and faster. Security experts say this attack should wake up every corporate board room and legislative chamber around the globe.

Darien Huss, a 28-year-old research engineer who assisted the anonymous British researcher who has been lauded a hero, said he was "still worried for what's to come in the next few days, because it really would not be so difficult for the actors behind this to re-release their code without a kill switch or with a better kill switch."

The ransomware exploited a vulnerability that has been patched in updates of recent versions of Windows since March, but Microsoft until now didn't make freely available the patch for Windows XP and other older systems.

"The problem is the larger organizations are still running on old, no longer supported operating systems," said Lawrence Abrams, a New York-based blogger who runs "So they no longer get the security updates they should be."


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