WannaCry: An global Cyber-attack that spread across the globe over night

Angelica Greene
May 27, 2017

The malware spread quickly on Friday, with medical staff in the United Kingdom reportedly seeing computers go down "one by one". As the name suggests, the virus in effect holds the infected computer hostage and demands that the victim pay a ransom in order to regain access to the files on his or her computer.

Throughout the day other, mainly European countries, reported infections.

Russian Federation and Britain were among the worst-hit countries by the attack.

WannaCry affected institutions such as hospitals and telecommunications companies and from as many as 74 countries. What was going on?

WannaCry is a form of malware called ransomware.

Banks whose ATMs rely on Windows XP or any other vulnerable operation systems would be expected to apply patches and protect their networks.

The massive ransomware campaign specifically targeted the healthcare industry. And while Smith says Microsoft and other tech companies need to take the lead on combatting these widespread attacks, he highlights the shared responsibility required to protect, detect and respond to threats.

Although this strain of ransomware was not spread by email, always beware suspicious emails asking you to click links or download attachments. "This is why they call it ransomworm". Shutting down a network can prevent the continued encryption - and possible loss - of more files. Cybersecurity experts say the unknown hackers who launched this weekend's "ransomware" attacks used a vulnerability that was exposed in NSA documents leaked online. "Ideally have updates set to automatic", said Prof Woodward.

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WannaCry was discovered by the NSA and made public by hackers in April. The problem is that not all customers installed the patch.

Instead, organisations such as the NSA should disclose computer vulnerabilities to their manufacturers, Microsoft argues. Globally, the attack spread more slowly today.

Affected Windows systems include everything from Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, Windows 8.x, Windows Server 2012, Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016.

Unfortunately, the spread of WannaCry wasn't actually stopped, but instead slowed.

Tanvir Hasan Zoha, an adviser with the Crime Research and Analysis Foundation, said: "So far, 30 computers have been reportedly attacked by ransomware, but these have been resolved (sic)". "I hope that if another attack occurs, the damage will be a lot less". "Javelin specifically focuses on the malicious lateral movement in its early phases and has the ability to stop every spread attempt regardless of methodology and help the organization recover automatically". Those include a known and highly unsafe security hole in Microsoft Windows, tardy users who didn't apply Microsoft's March software fix, and malware created to spread quickly once inside university, business and government networks. Though the initial infection was stopped by a quick-thinking security researcher, at least 452 variants on the malware are now infesting the internet.

Because of its success infiltrating systems, the software - also known as WannaCrypt, Wana Decryptor or WCry - is already inspiring imitators.

If you're not patching, if you're not using tools like this, and if you're not being somewhat paranoid, there is zero doubt: You are vulnerable.

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