Wednesday, 20 June, 2018

Ransomware: Once lucky, more on the way

Laurie Berry | 17 May, 2017, 20:01

Smith (below, right) was reacting to the Windows ransomware attacks over the weekend that caused companies around the world to go into meltdown, unable to use their systems to get any work done.

Darien Huss, a 28-year-old research engineer who assisted the anonymous British researcher lauded a hero, said he was "still anxious for what's to come in the next few days because it really would not be so hard for the actors behind this to re-release their code without a kill switch or with a better kill switch". But the researcher's actions may have saved companies and governments millions of dollars and slowed the outbreak before computers in the US were more widely affected. And while Microsoft said it had already released a security update to patch the vulnerability one month earlier, the sequence of events fed speculation that the NSA hadn't told the USA tech giant about the security risk until after it had been stolen.

Later in the day, the Maharashtra Police department said it was partially hit by the ransomware.

Spokesman Jan Op Gen Oorth said Sunday that the number of individuals who have fallen victim to the cyberextortion attack could be much higher.

Major global companies said they also came under attack. "Otherwise they're literally fighting the problems of the present with tools from the past".

The malware, using a technique stolen from the US National Security Agency, stopped care at hospitals across the United Kingdom, affected Russia's interior ministry and infected company computer systems in countries from Eastern Europe to the US and Asia.

WannaCry virus, which killed over 150 countries and could cause significant damage due to vulnerability the latest version of Microsoft Windows.

In the United Kingdom, 45 organisations in the National Health Service were affected, home secretary Amber Rudd said on Saturday, and hospitals in London, North West England and Central England urged people with non-emergency conditions to stay away as technicians tried to stop the spread of the malicious software.

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Railway stations, mail delivery, gas stations, hospitals, office buildings, shopping malls and government services also were affected, China's Xinhua News Agency said, citing the Threat Intelligence Center of Qihoo 360, a Chinese internet security services company.

All this may be just a taste of what's coming, another cyber security expert warned.

The attack held hospitals and other entities hostage by freezing computers, encrypting their data and demanding money through online bitcoin payment - $300 at first, rising to $600 before it destroys files hours later. Wainwright said Europol did not know the motive.

This is already believed to be the biggest online extortion attack ever recorded, disrupting services in nations as diverse as the U.S., Ukraine, Brazil, Spain and India. "So they no longer get the security updates they should be".

The non-profit U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit research institute estimated that total losses would range in the hundreds of millions of dollars, but not exceed $1 billion.

Ryan Kalember, senior vice president at Proofpoint Inc. which helped stop its spread, said the version without a kill switch could spread.

"Obviously, they want those tools in order to spy on people of interest, on other countries, to conduct surveillance", Cluley said.

Burnett reported from Chicago and Breed from Raleigh, North Carolina.


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