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WannaCry is a type of ransomware attack that developed in the spring of 2017 and brought the idea of ransomware threats further into the mainstream. This global attack disabled many systems, including public-service systems such as those supporting hospitals and law-enforcement offices. Experts classified WannaCry as a cryptoworm. The security community responded with a "kill switch" and patches that largely stopped the infection of computers with WannaCry.
In the WannaCry attack, hackers used an exploit called EternalBlue that was previously used by the U.S. National Security Agency. By exploiting a vulnerability in Microsoft's server message block protocol, EternalBlue allowed for WannaCry to propagate.
A software patch was provided, but computers that did not have the patches installed were still vulnerable to the WannaCry ransomware attack. Months after the attack was effectively stopped, nations including the United States and the United Kingdom suggested that the hackers behind the WannaCry attack were backed by North Korea.
WannaCry became a kind of textbook example of the ransomware attack – an attack that encrypts file data and asks for ransom payments in the form of bitcoin or some other untraceable cryptocurrency. WannaCry's swift and extensive development illustrated how damaging ransomware can be, as the attack was estimated to hit more than 200,000 computers globally, causing billions of dollars worth of damage.