Monday, 20 November, 2017

USA should not stockpile cyber weapons, Microsoft says

Kayla Schwartz | 16 May, 2017, 09:15

Microsoft released a security patch for the vulnerabilities in March. That prompted the company to issue another patch on Friday for older and unsupported operating systems such as Windows XP, allowing users to secure their systems without requiring an upgrade to the latest operating software.

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".

In the United Kingdom, hospitals were crippled by the cyberattack, which forced operations to be canceled and ambulances to be diverted.

Worse, the malware was able to create so much chaos because it was designed to self-replicate like a virus, spreading quickly once inside university, business and government networks.

"We think Asia-Pacific was impacted probably not as heavily as the European regions, but I don't think they dodged a bullet", said Tim Wellsmore, Asia-Pacific director for threat intelligence at FireEye, a California-based network security company.

Infected computers appear to largely be out-of-date devices that organizations deemed not worth the price of upgrading or, in some cases, machines involved in manufacturing or hospital functions that proved too hard to patch without possibly disrupting crucial operations, security experts said.

The identity of whoever deployed the software remains unknown.

The cyberattack has hit more than 300,000 computers, White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert said at Monday's midday White House briefing.

Targets both large and small have been hit.

And all this may be just a taste of what's coming, a leading cyber security expert warned.

There is actually some good news in all this: Emmanuel noted in his report that "Amber Rudd, the home secretary, said yesterday that all but six of the trusts were back to normal following the attacks that crippled IT systems by locking computers and demanding a ransom".

Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who exposed the broad scope of NSA surveillance in 2013, tweeted, "If @NSAGov had privately disclosed the flaw used to attack hospitals when they *found* it, not when they lost it, this may not have happened". "What if the same exact thing happened to a water dam or to a bridge?" he asked.

The warning echoed that from Europe's policing agency earlier Sunday.

Then there's the USA government, whose Windows hacking tools were leaked to the internet and got into the hands of cybercriminals.

Microsoft Blames Spy Agencies For Ransomware Attack
Microsoft's message is clear: authorities need to start thinking about security exploits in the same terms as physical weapons. There's Microsoft, whose ubiquitous Windows operating systems were compromised after attackers exploited a security hole.

While ransom payments for users' stolen data had been notably low, the Security Response blog notes that a bitcoin address linked to the hackers showed a "spike in payments" to the account that began at 8 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time on Monday.

A young cybersecurity researcher has been credited with helping to halt the ransomware's spread by accidentally activating a so-called "kill switch" in the malicious software.

The attack was essentially stopped by a researcher called MalwareTech who found an unregistered domain name in the ransomware.

Experts are trying to figure out who's behind a global "ransomware" software cyberattack that shut down hundreds of thousands of computers around the world by exploiting a software vulnerability.

In the U.S., FedEx Corp. reported that its Windows computers were "experiencing interference" from malware, but wouldn't say if it had been hit by ransomware.

But he aimed his sharpest criticisms at the US and other nations.

The kill switch couldn't help those already infected, however.

Short of paying, options for those already infected are usually limited to recovering data files from a backup, if available, or living without them.

Security experts said his move bought precious time for organizations seeking to block the attacks. Companies that still rely on a legacy version of Windows can pay Microsoft a subscription fee to continue receiving custom support and patches, but in this case Microsoft made the decision to issue a patch for all Windows XP setups "Today many of our customers around the world and the critical systems they depend on were victims of malicious "WannaCrypt" software".

Microsoft's lawyer says governments should "report vulnerabilities" that they discover to software companies, "rather than stockpile, sell, or exploit them".

In Russia, government agencies insisted that all attacks had been resolved.

"This attack provides yet another example of why the stockpiling of vulnerabilities by governments is such a problem", he said.

Russian cellular phone operators Megafon and MTS were hit. Russian Federation appeared to be the hardest hit, according to security experts, with the country's Interior Ministry confirming it was struck.

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