Microsoft Slams NSA Over Ransomware Nightmare

Fernando Stephens
May 18, 2017

The hackers then demand $300 in order to release control of the files. But the ransomware making headlines, called WannaCry, is a bit unusual.

Over the weekend, a cyberattack left PCs running on Microsoft Windows servers vulnerable to a hack.

The software tools to create the attack were revealed in April among a trove of NSA spy tools that were either leaked or stolen. WannaCry has its origins in a tool developed by the National Security Agency in the USA that was dumped online by a group called the Shadow Brokers.

Computer users - at home, or at work - should make sure as their first task that their computers have been updated with any security patches.

The attack has been found in 150 countries, affecting 200,000 computers, according to Europol, the European law enforcement agency. In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service's systems across 48 localized trusts fell victim, for example, seriously impacting patient care. It forced the closure of multiple hospitals and ambulance companies, among other services and institutions. The outdated version of Windows XP, that the ransomware managed to exploit, is used by nearly 70 per cent of Indian ATMs.

If your company uses an older Windows network system no longer supported by Microsoft, you may not have been prompted to download security updates, but they're available from Microsoft's site.

How can people protect their computers?

Ransomware puts a new spin on that threat, and it's a growth industry. Officials said the infected computers were standalone systems, not connected to the internet or the government's intranet (internal network). Just go to Microsoft's website and install the update.

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Also, a tornado struck a rural area in western Oklahoma, leaving damage in its wake but no immediate reports of injuries. One person died at the mobile home park, the Wisconsin Emergency Operations Center said in a statement late Tuesday.

The attack spread to a large swath of different organizations around the world, including the French vehicle company Renault, the Russian cellphone operator MegaFon and US -based FedEx.

The hackers remain anonymous for now, but it appears that they are amateurs.

Instead of a security patch, it was a 22-year-old security researcher who was able to stop the attack after discovering a "kill switch" domain that, when online, would stop the spread of the ransomware.

Follow this link for live tracking of the malware attack.

"We are not going to get a response unless it is in their best interest, and in this case, I can't imagine a narrative where it is", Grossman said.

Those who use Apple's Mac computers are not at risk of the recent ransomware attack. Some experts have expressed concern that once people get back in the swing of things at work, the problem might jumpstart itself, causing more problems than before.

"You can point a lot of fingers, but I think given that this was not a zero-day vulnerability (for which no patch is available), the people hacked are to blame", said Robert Cattanach, a partner at the global law firm Dorsey & Whitney and an expert on cybersecurity and data breaches.

Other reports by BadHub

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