London – Dozens of European companies and institutions witnessed consecutive electronic attacks by a new ransomware virus called Petya, which is said to be locking computers that are infected and encrypting files on them.
The new cyber attack is similar to the ransomware that infected more than 300,000 computers last month.
The virus hit on Tuesday a number of Ukrainian governmental institutions, in addition to Russian oil companies and European, Indian and British firms.
Russian giant oil firm Rosneft said that the new virus has infected all of its computers.
Infected computers display a message demanding a Bitcoin ransom worth $300. Those who pay are asked to send confirmation of payment to an email address. However, the email provider has shut down that email address.
Petya severely hit Ukraine, where the government, banks, state power utility and Kiev’s airport and metro system were all affected.
The radiation monitoring system at Chernobyl was taken offline, forcing employees to use hand-held counters to measure levels at the former nuclear plant’s exclusion zone.
Ukraine Deputy Prime Minister Pavlo Rozenko tweeted an image of a government computer affected by the virus. He also said that all of the government’s computers have been infected.
Although the source of the virus is still unknown, experts said that the international ransomware was very much similar to “Wannacry”, which hit the world last month.
Ukraine’s Central Bank reported disruption to operations at banks and firms, including the state power distributor.
In the UK, the advertising firm WPP said its systems had also been struck down, while in the Netherlands a major shipping firm confirmed its computer terminals were malfunctioning.
The virus has also hit French construction materials company Saint-Gobain.