Saturday, 21 October, 2017

WannaCry Ransomware: Microsoft Calls Out NSA For 'Stockpiling' Vulnerabilities

Global extortion cyberattack hits dozens of nations Global ransomware attack hits 74 countries
Carol Daniels | 17 May, 2017, 02:29

With about 70 per cent of India's ATMs running on Windows XP, the operating system most affected by Wannacry ransomware, software and security experts have pointed out that governments and organisations need to regularly update the software involved in running key financial and infrastructure systems in the country.

Though the spread of the ransomware slowed on Monday, many companies and government agencies were still struggling to recover from the first attack. The same goes for cloud services, though they can be helpful.

Mr Putin said the incident was "worrisome" but had done "no significant damage" in Russian Federation and called for urgent worldwide talks on countering the hackers.

"We may have reached a point where we need to make automated patching and updating opt-out rather than opt-in", he said.

In a blog post Sunday, Brad Smith, Microsoft president and chief legal officer, said that the USA espionage agency authored the software that was eventually stolen and made its way into the hands of hackers who drew from it in the assault that has disrupted computers in at least 150 countries. "Repeatedly, exploits in the hands of governments have leaked into the public domain and caused widespread damage", he said.

He likened the situation to what would happen - hypothetically - if the USA military had some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen.

The cybersecurity wake-up call the world has long needed has occurred.

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But some experts have argued this attack could have been vastly mitigated if the NSA told Microsoft sooner. The NHS has said hospitals have had to cancel some outpatient appointments because of the attack.

But global fears eased on Monday as the number of incidents reported levelled off. Computers outside the government's intranet are not monitored by the information technology department and are always at risk of such an attack.

Microsoft said it had taken the "highly unusual step" of releasing a patch for computers running older operating systems including Windows XP, Windows 8 and Windows Server 2003. Organizations are being warned to upgrade to newer systems for safety.

Europol executive director Rob Wainwright said the attack was "unprecedented".

"We believe organizations that have been affected (by WannaCry) will likely increase their cybersecurity spending", said Jonathan Ho, a William Blair analyst in a report. India's cyber security agency has alerted internet users against the worn which locks the infected computer and asks the user to pay a ransom on 300 Dollars in Bitcoin virtual currency to unlock the system.

Payment is demanded within three days or the price is doubled, and if none is received within seven days the locked files will be deleted, according to the screen message.

Bitcoin, the world's most-used virtual currency, allows anonymous transactions via heavily encrypted codes. Railway stations, mail delivery, gas stations, hospitals, office buildings, shopping malls and government services were also said to be affected. The ransom should be paid in bitcoins (digital money) and not in the form of bank transfers. Typical ransomware infections happen after the victim clicks on a malicious email attachment or link.

CERT-In has been on an overdrive advising critical infrastructure agencies including banks, airports, telecom networks and stock markets to take precautions against the ransomware attack by downloading software "patches".

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