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WannaCry is like a 'pandemic' — hopefully it burns itself out, says ex-NATO commander

Berkeley Lovelace Jr.
"We've never seen something sweep across the planet at this speed," Admiral James Stavridis tells CNBC.

A former supreme allied commander of NATO told CNBC on Monday that the "WannaCry" malware attack should be viewed as a "pandemic."

"The key here is its global nature. We've never seen something sweep across the planet at this speed. It's very worrisome," retired U.S. Adm. James Stavridis said in an interview on " Squawk Box ."

On Friday, A worldwide ransomware attack hit 200,000 victims in at least 150 countries , the head of Europe's cross-border police agency said Sunday. The attack affected hospitals, car factories, shops and schools.

"The global reach is unprecedented. The latest count is over 200,000 victims in at least 150 countries, and those victims, many of those will be businesses, including large corporations," Europol Director Rob Wainwright said Sunday.

President Donald Trump ordered his homeland security advisor to hold an emergency meeting Friday night to assess the threat posed by the attacks, a senior administration official told Reuters

Stavridis, now dean of Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, said he is seeing "mixed messages" on whether Friday's massive attacks could continue this week. Still, he said the initial attack is an opening of Pandora's box.

Ultimately, Stavridis said the U.S. and other nations need to be in the cloud and prioritize hard-drive backups and some computers that have the ability to be disconnected from the internet.

"Let's hope that this one will burn itself out," he said. "We outta wake up to the real potential of a devastating attack in this way."

— Reuters contributed to this report.