Cyber-attack: Europol says it was unprecedented in scale

Fernando Stephens
May 19, 2017

Smith's blog post did not address another factor in the ransomware's spread, one that hints at the difficulty of uniting against a hacking attack: Users of pirated Microsoft software are unable to download the security patch, forcing them to fend for themselves or rely on a third-party source for a solution.

Lawrence Abrams, a New York-based blogger who runs BleepingComputer.com, says many organizations don't install security upgrades because they're anxious about triggering bugs, or they can't afford the downtime.

"MeitY has initiated contact with relevant stakeholders in public and private sector to "patch" their systems as prescribed in the advisory issued by CERT-IN".

"But our immediate priority as a government is to disrupt the attack, restore affected services as soon as possible, and establish who was behind it so we can bring them to justice".

Instead, the simple update that could have prevented the attack left them vulnerable to security breaches.

Using antivirus software will at least protect you from the most basic, well-known viruses by scanning your system against the known fingerprints of these pests.

Shanghai's Fudan University received reports that a large number of school computers were infected with the virus.

"The reason this is hitting so many computers at once is that they discovered a vulnerability in the most popular operating system in the world, in Microsoft windows", said John Carlin, former assistant attorney general for national security and an ABC News contributor.

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It's not just your computer that you need to be anxious about.

Robert Pritchard, a former cybersecurity expert at Britain's defense ministry, said that security specialists might not be able to keep pace with the hackers.

Although the spread of the malware - known as WannaCry and variants of that name - appears to have slowed, the threat is not yet over. That affordable move redirected the attacks to MalwareTech's server, which operates as a "sinkhole" to keep malware from escaping.

However, a hacker could rewrite the code to omit the kill switch and start trying to infect new machines with a new version of it. Short of paying, options for these individuals and companies are usually limited to recovering data files from a backup, if available, or living without them.

Indian ATMs run on Windows XP, which has been discontinued by Microsoft long back. "We need to take the act of keeping our systems and devices up to date seriously", said Tyler Cohen Wood, a former senior intelligence official involved in cyber operations.

Once inside an organization, WannaCry uses a Windows vulnerability purportedly identified by the NSA and later leaked to the internet.

Complexity is the enemy of security and it is a fair bet that some bits of that network, especially those operated by suppliers, are not as well maintained as they should be. Within a few hours, the malware infected victims in 74 countries, including Russia, Turkey, Germany, Vietnam, and the Philippines, and it is likely spreading at a rate of five million emails per hour, said, experts. "But there's clearly some culpability on the part of the USA intelligence services". They can cash out easily thanks to the use of the Bitcoin virtual currency, which is hard to trace.

"Obviously, they want those tools in order to spy on people of interest, on other countries, to conduct surveillance", Cluley said. "And that's what's happening right now".

Other reports by BadHub

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