Australian businesses have been urged to update their cybersecurity systems following the global spread of the WannaCry ransomware that originated in Europe on Friday.

Eight Australian businesses so far been affected.

Known under various names, including “WannaCrypt”, “WanaCryt0r” or “Wana”, the ransomware leverages publicly known vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows and spreads the infection to other hosts within a network. It has affected computers across the world.

“As the professional association, we have a continuing dialogue with the Prime Minister’s advisor on cybersecurity, Alistair MacGibbon, and are encouraging all of our members to demonstrate best practice when it comes to protecting their systems, and those of their clients and employers,” said ACS President Anthony Wong.

"Our cybersecurity white paper ‘Cybersecurity: Threats, Challenges, Opportunities’ spoke about the growing threat from overseas and non-state actors and outlined why businesses need to start talking cybersecurity seriously.”

The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) has warned Australians the campaign is highly likely to impact Australian Government, industry and individuals. Although it has not yet affected this critical infrastructure, the ransomware is now believed to have affected five Australian businesses.

The campaign, that has so far hit major systems, such as the UK National Health Service, encrypts files before asking for a US$300 payment in Bitcoin to restore the system. The payment then doubles to $600 if not paid within three days.

Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Cyber Security, Dan Tehan, said the ransomware had not affected Australia’s critical infrastructure or Government agencies, and urged businesses to take action to avoid falling victim to one of these attacks.

“Small business owners should be pro-active about their cybersecurity in the wake of this ransomware campaign affecting computers around the world.

“If your business has been infected you should isolate the affected computer from your network to prevent the software spreading and use backup data to restore information.”

“This ransomware attack is a wake-up call to all Australian businesses to regularly backup their data and install the latest security patches.

“I urge all businesses to visit the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) website at or call 1300 292371 (1300 CYBER1) for more information and to contact the ACSC if you have been infected.

The ACSC has urged businesses and individuals to patch their operating systems to protect themselves from potential attacks.

This comes following Microsoft releasing updates for Windows XP, Windows 8 and Windows Server 2003 to patch these vulnerabilities.

“Microsoft has now released advice regarding this Ransomware threat and have back-ported the earlier security update to address the vulnerability for some out-of-support versions of Windows,” said the ACSC in a statement released on Saturday. “Australian organisations are encouraged to apply Microsoft-provided patches that fix these vulnerabilities.”

The government has said it will continue to provide updates on this issue as it develops.

Update: As of 9am AEST, 16 May 2017, there have been 12 reports of Australian small businesses affected by WannaCry ransomware.