Friday, 19 October, 2018

Worldwide cyberextortion attack promps Microsoft to shift policy, fixes free for everyone

Kayla Schwartz | 14 May, 2017, 23:11

This attack, according to reports, has so far affected over 99 countries and 100,000 machines. The ransomware appeared to have hit some 100,000 systems, more than half in Russian Federation, according to a tweet yesterday by malware researcher Jakub Kroustek. Some experts believe the attackers behind the ransomware have only raised around $20,000 from the scam.

Cybersecurity experts have been working around the clock to try to halt the malware attack that is unprecedented in scale.

There are now signs that the ransomware attack has subsided thanks to a kill switch, discovered by a 22-year-old in the UK.

"It's unequivocally scary", said John Dickson of the Denim Group, a USA security consultancy.

The ransomware was created to repeatedly contact an unregistered domain listed in its code. The security researcher has posted an online account of finding the kill switch, which was also posted to the United Kingdom government's National Cyber Security Centre website. In light of Friday's attacks, Microsoft announced that it's making the fixes free to all. His action couldn't help those already infected, however.

Microsoft released fixes for the vulnerability in March, but computers that didn't run the update were subject to the ransom attack. The Spanish government said several companies including Telefonica had been targeted in ransomware cyberattack that affected the Windows operating system of employees' computers.

"It was essentially an indiscriminate attack across the world", Europol director Rob Wainwright said. The exploit was leaked last month as part of a trove of NSA spy tools. Even though Microsoft released a patch for WannaCrypt this time, there is no guarantee that Microsoft will do it for similar attacks in future. Once installed, the malware just locks up that computer without spreading to other machines.

Unfortunately however, computers already affected will not be helped by the solution. Fortune reported Thursday that the price of bitcoin was at an all-time high. Security experts say this attack should wake up every corporate board room and legislative chamber around the globe.

"It's an global attack and a number of countries and organizations have been affected", she said. Home Secretary Amber Rudd said all but six of the NHS trusts back to normal Saturday.

Britain's National Health Service declared a "major incident" after the attack, which forced some hospitals to divert ambulances and scrap operations.

Grant Gowers, 50, from Clacton-on-Sea in southern England, told CNN how the ransomware attack had directly affected him.

But there will be other vulnerabilities to come, and not all of them will have fixes for older systems. Experts say it will be hard for them to replicate the conditions that allowed the so-called WannaCry ransomware to proliferate across the globe. But that's not good enough for Gowers.

India summons Pakistani envoy over soldiers' beheadings
On May 2, Union Defence Ministry Arun Jaitley warned Pakistan, saying such attacks do not even take place during war. He said considering the nation's mood, the government must take swift and solid action against Pakistan.

Worldwide shipper FedEx Corp said some of its Windows computers were also breached.

The UK government has called a meeting of its crisis response committee, known as Cobra, on Saturday to discuss the situation.

Microsoft has taken the unusual step of re-releasing security updates for some older versions of its Windows platforms to counter a massive global wave of cyber ransomware attacks. Users should download the patch before clicking on any link in email.

MORE: What Is Ransomware and How Can I Protect Myself? Here's how to turn automatic updates on.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in a statement late Friday, encouraged people to update their operating systems. It said he paid about $11 on Friday to buy a domain name that may have saved governments and companies around the world millions.

Managers at many companies and other organizations have not taken steps to put proper cybersecurity systems in place despite talking about their importance, Gazeley said.

"For so many organizations in the same day to be hit, this is unprecedented", he said.

No one has yet identified the culprit.

The paper quoted the researcher as saying: "This is not over". Bitcoin is set up to be untraceable, so investigators will struggle to follow a money trail, he said.

"I think the security industry as a whole should be considered heroes", he said.

It also may never be known how much the hackers have netted from the ransomware attack.


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