Friday, 20 July, 2018

Countries race to halt ransomware

Countries race to halt ransomware Countries race to halt ransomware
Kenny Thornton | 14 May, 2017, 13:52

The ransomware exploits a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows that was purportedly identified by the U.S. National Security Agency for its own intelligence-gathering purposes.

In Britain, the attack disrupted care at National Health Service facilities, forcing ambulances to divert and hospitals to postpone operations.

"Those who have Windows Update enabled are protected against attacks on this vulnerability", the company said in the post published on its website.

The British government did not know who was behind the attack but its National Crime Agency was working to find out, interior minister Amber Rudd said. In Brazil, the social security system had to disconnect its computers and cancel public access. The attack froze computers at hospitals across the country, with some cancelling all routine procedures.

Unfortunately, there is nothing stopping the hackers, who haven't been identified, from picking a new unclaimed domain and trying again. Hospitals, with their often outdated IT systems and trove of confidential patient data, are a particularly tempting target.

BREAKING: Britain: Cyberattack hit nearly 20 percent of UK's 248 public health trusts; all but 6 now back to normal.

"This is one of the largest global ransomware attacks the cyber community has ever seen", said Rich Barger, director of threat research with Splunk, one of the firms that linked WannaCry to the NSA.

Authorities in both countries said the attack was conducted using "ransomware" - malicious software that infects machines, locks them up by encrypting data and demands a ransom to restore access.

Images appeared on victims' screens demanding payment of $300 (275 euros) in Bitcoin, saying: "Ooops, your files have been encrypted!"

Alan Woodward, visiting professor of computing at the University of Surrey, said there was evidence the ransomware was spreading using a Microsoft flaw exposed in a recent leak of information from US intelligence agencies.

NHS cyber chaos hits thousands of patients
Two security firms - Kaspersky Lab and Avast - said they identified the malicious software in more than 70 countries. Russia's largest bank Sberbank said its systems "detected in time attempts to penetrate bank infrastructure".

Malware is a general term that refers to software that's harmful to your computer, said John Villasenor, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

A spokesman for Nissan UK said: "Like many organisations around the world, some Nissan entities were recently targeted by a ransomware attack. The fact is the NHS has fallen victim to this", Rudd said.

Spain, meanwhile, activated a special protocol to protect critical infrastructure in response to the "massive infection" of personal and corporate computers in ransomware attacks.

Marin Ivezic, cybersecurity partner at PwC, said that some clients had been "working around the clock since the story broke" to restore systems and install software updates, or patches, or restore systems from backups. "We are implementing remediation steps as quickly as possible", a FedEx statement said.Telecommunications company Telefonica was among many targets in Spain.

London's Barts Health NHS Trust, the largest trust in the United Kingdom, cancelled all outpatient appointments at its five hospitals today. "It's stressful enough for someone going through recovery or treatment for cancer".

The ransomware used in the attack is called WannaCry and attacks Windows operating systems.

The virus spread quickly because the culprits used a digital code believed to have been developed by the US National Security Agency - and subsequently leaked as part of a document dump, according to researchers at the Moscow-based computer security firm Kaspersky Lab.

Britain's National Health Service is a source of pride for many Britons but faces substantial budget issues and has had previous problems with its huge IT system. If the ransom isn't paid, the data is often lost forever.

The British Medical Association said some doctors had to "resort to pen and paper" instead of updating patient records digitally.

He said many NHS hospitals in Britain use Windows XP software, introduced in 2001, and as government funding for the health service has been squeezed "IT budgets are often one of the first ones to be reduced".

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