London: Cyber security experts rushed to restore systems on Saturday after an unprecedented global wave of cyber attacks that struck targets ranging from Russia's banks to British hospitals and a French carmaker's factories.
The hunt was on for the culprits behind the assault, which was being described as the biggest cyber ransom attack ever.
State agencies and major companies around the world were left reeling by the attacks which blocked access to files and demanded ransom money, forcing them to shut down their computer systems.
"The recent attack is at an unprecedented level and will require a complex international investigation to identify the culprits," said Europol, Europe's policing agency.
The attacks, which experts said affected dozens of countries, used a technique known as ransomware that locks users' files unless they pay the attackers a designated sum in the virtual Bitcoin currency.
Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at the Helsinki-based cyber security company F-Secure, told AFP that the attack was "the biggest ransomware outbreak in history", saying that 130,000 systems in more than 100 countries had been affected.
He said that Russia and India were hit particularly hard, in large part because the older Windows XP operating software is still widely used in the countries.
The attacks apparently exploited a flaw exposed in documents leaked from the US National Security Agency (NSA).
The attacks hit a whole range of organisations and businesses worldwide.
French carmaker Renault was forced to stop production at sites in France and Slovenia, saying the measure was aimed at stopping the virus from spreading.
In the United States, package delivery group FedEx acknowledged it had been hit by malware and said it was "implementing remediation steps as quickly as possible."
Russia's interior ministry said that some of its computers had been hit by a "virus attack" and that efforts were underway to destroy it.
The country's central bank said the banking system was hit, and the railway system also reported attempted breaches.
The central bank's IT attack monitoring centre "detected mass distribution of harmful software" but no "instances of compromise", it said.
Russia's largest bank Sberbank said its systems "detected in time attempts to penetrate bank infrastructure".
Germany's Deutsche Bahn computers were also impacted, with the rail operator reporting that station display panels were affected.