Microsoft partly blames USA gov't for cyberattack

Cesar Mills
May 19, 2017

Europol, the pan-European Union crime-fighting agency, said the threat was escalating and predicted the number of "ransomware" victims was likely to grow across the private and public sectors as people returned to work on Monday. Although Microsoft released fixes in March, the attackers counted on many organizations not getting around to applying those fixes.

The extortion scheme created chaos in 150 countries and could wreak even greater havoc as more malicious variations appear.

The initial attack, known as "WannaCry", paralyzed computers running factories, banks, government agencies and transport systems in scores of countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Brazil, Spain, India and Japan, among others.

Last week's ransomware attack that brought down MRI scanners in the United Kingdom, railroad ticket machines in Germany, interior ministry computers in Russian Federation and parts of the FedEx network in the U.S.is bound to cause a backlash against spy agencies' cyberwarfare capabilities.

Hospitals, major companies and government offices were among those that were badly affected. "The bad guys are always one step ahead". Seven of the 47 affected trusts were still having IT problems Monday.

President Donald Trump on Friday night ordered his homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, to convene an "emergency meeting" to assess the threat posed by the global attack, a senior administration official told Reuters. Japan, Turkey, and the Philippines were also affected.

Chinese state media said 29,372 institutions there had been infected along with hundreds of thousands of devices. And those fixes will do nothing for newer systems if they aren't installed.

It also threatened to dump data from banks using the SWIFT global money transfer network and from Russian, Chinese, Iranian or North Korean nuclear and missile programs, without providing further details.

In Indonesia, the malware locked patient files on computers in two hospitals in the capital, Jakarta, causing delays.

The ransomware exploits older versions of Microsoft's operating system software, such as Windows XP.

According to CERT-In, victims of the ransomware are advised not to pay the ransom as there is no gaurantee that the files will be returned.

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If you think your information is not at risk because a cybercriminal couldn't possibly care about what is on your system, Levin says to think again. "It's like after a robber enters your home".

New variants of the rapidly replicating malware were discovered Sunday.

The UK security researcher known as "MalwareTech", who helped to limit the ransomware attack, predicted "another one coming. quite likely on Monday". Once infected, all of the files on the computer are encrypted by the malware, which then displays a ransom demand of between USA $300 and $600 in bitcoin that needs to be paid before the files can be decrypted.

"That's why we're seeing these numbers increasing all the time", he said.

The attack held users hostage by freezing their computers, popping up a red screen with the words, "Oops, your files have been encrypted!" and demanding money through online bitcoin payment - $300 at first, rising to $600 before it destroys files hours later. Equally, if you open a document and it asks to run macros, just say no.

Shares in Sophos (SOPH) are topping the FTSE 250, as investors rush to buy cyber security stocks following the WannaCry attack that hit one in five NHS trusts on Friday and has infected 200,000 computers globally.

"In cases of genuine URLs close out the e-mail and go to the organisation's website directly through browser", it said.

In short, an NSA cyberweapon utilizing a flaw in a piece of Microsoft software slipped out of the hands of the USA government and into the hands of malicious hackers, who put the weapon to work for their own financial ends.

But Brad Smith, Microsoft president's and chief legal officer, said on Sunday that it was the latest example of why the stockpiling of vulnerabilities by governments was such a problem.

Experts say the spread of the virus had been stymied by a security researcher in the U.K. Hackers have issued new versions of the virus that cyber security organizations are actively trying to counter and stamp out.

"Right now, just about every IT department has been working all weekend rolling this out", said Dan Wire, spokesman at Fireeye Security.

Other reports by GizPress

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