Cyber attack should be 'wake-up call — Microsoft president

Joan Terry
May 17, 2017

It hit 200,000 victims across the world since Friday and is seen as an "escalating threat", said Rob Wainwright, the head of Europol, Europe's policing agency. "I'm anxious about how the numbers will continue to grow when people go to work and turn their machines on Monday morning".

Other countries and companies affected in a major way include FedEx, Russia's interior ministry, Japanese companies Hitachi and Nissan and Renault, the French automobile manufacture.

The attacks struck targets in dozens of countries, ranging from British hospitals to Russian banks.

"The malware enters the system through phishing emails or when the user clicks on unknown links".

Experts say the spread of the virus had been stymied by a security researcher in the United Kingdom hackers have issued new versions of the virus that cyber security organizations are actively trying to counter and stamp out. The ransomware was created to repeatedly contact an unregistered domain in its code.

"On May 12, 2017 we detected a new ransomware that spreads like a worm by leveraging vulnerabilities that have been previously fixed", a Microsoft Malware Protection Center blog post notes.

Apple's Mac computers were not targeted by this ransomware attack so are clear. Copycat attacks could follow.

He said it's likely the ransomware will spread to USA firms too. All sectors of the economy were vulnerable and organizations could take lessons from the banking industry, which appeared to have largely escaped the global attack.

Ransomware is a type of malicious software which blocks access to data until a ransom is paid. Smith compared the leak of NSA exploits to the theft of missiles from the American military, pointing to the WikiLeaks dump of Central Intelligence Agency hacking tools. Microsoft had issued a patch on March 14, but many computers hadn't run the update. But computers and networks that didn't update their systems are still at risk.

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The patches won't do any good for machines that have already been hit.

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"The numbers are still going up", Wainwright said. He added that ransomware attacks were normally criminal rather than political in nature.

In England, 48 National Health Service (NHS) trusts fell victim, as did 13 NHS bodies in Scotland.

Once your system has ransomware, your choices are limited: pay or don't pay.

He said the crisis could develop "at a significant scale" in coming days. The malware is targeting Microsoft's Windows operating systems.

Hundreds of thousands of computers have been affected so far. Meaning that the PCs that were successfully attacked had not been updated in a timely manner.

"More action is needed, and it's needed now".

He said consumers who have up-to-date software are protected from this ransomware. Here's how to turn automatic updates on. It can infect other computers on the same wireless network. This exploit was leaked by a hacker group called the Shadow Brokers earlier this year but the vulnerability was patched by Microsoft as soon as it happened.

Other reports by BadHub

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