Saturday, 23 September, 2017

After Global Malware Hack New Concerns Linger

Kayla Schwartz | 19 May, 2017, 16:11

When the National Security Agency lost control of the software behind the WannaCry cyberattack, it was like "the USA military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen", Microsoft President Brad Smith says, in a message about the malicious software that has created havoc on computer networks in more than 150 countries since Friday. Tech companies such as Microsoft, Apple, Google and others have been adamant that governments should not have backdoors into their software because the vulnerabilities could fall into the wrong hands.

"However", Almanthari added, "at the same time, we would like to draw the attention of government and private organizations to the importance of taking serious protective measures to deal with all cybersecurity attacks generally including the necessity of making backups to all organization's data before starting the work, updating antiviruses programmes and activating auto scanning for all organization's network regularly".

The perpetrators of the attack are still not known.

A deeper look into the Trojan's eruption reveals a callous disregard on Microsoft's part for users of its older operating systems. It should also be available such that users can enable at will for all or most of the applications that connect to the internet and can be remotely exploited, and not just Microsoft's own first-party applications.

However, the ransomware warning said that the cost would double after three days, so the payments may increase. On Monday the payoff is expected to rise to $600 for the infected computers. Users are confronted with a screen demanding a $300 payment to restore their files. That means it still had vital security updates and patches to avoid being hacked.

Companies and governments spent the weekend upgrading software to limit the spread of the virus.

The BBC quoted analysts as saying organizations and businesses in Britain had paid some 38,000 dollars to cyber criminals for the decryption of files since Friday. PSA Group, Fiat Chrysler, Volkswagen, Daimler, Toyota and Honda said their plants were unaffected.

"The recent global ransomware attack exploiting a flaw in Windows, while serious, not only demonstrates the continued ubiquity of Microsoft, but also highlights that numerous affected enterprises or entities that are still using older, and now unsupported, versions of Windows need to accelerate their plans to upgrade to Windows 10", analyst Michael Nemeroff wrote in a note to clients Monday entitled "If you're not current, you're toast".

Infected computers appear to be largely out-of-date devices. He noted, however, the complexity that can be involved in patching a security hole.

"With the right approach, it won't be something that people will have to worry about", Microsoft's founder Bill Gates said of cyber attacks back in October on the BBC.

Worldwide standards should compel countries not to stockpile or exploit software vulnerabilities, says Smith, who is also Microsoft's chief legal officer.

"Once they're let out of the lamp, genies of this kind, especially those created by intelligence services, can later do damage to their authors and creators", he said. This isn't just good advice to defend against ransomware, but good advice in general.

US Navy moves second aircraft carrier near Pyongyang
While North Korea's arsenal of missiles is becoming clearer, there is less certainty about how developed its nuclear program is. South Korea's military officials said the reclusive North apparently stands ready to conduct another nuclear test.

Other experts also blamed the government.

"This is an emerging pattern in 2017", Smith says in a Microsoft company blog post.

Even with the best precautions and policies in place, you may still suffer from a ransomware attack.

Britain's NHS is the world's fifth-largest employer after the USA and Chinese militaries, Wal-Mart Stores and McDonald's.

Still, he said, the greatest burden should fall on the government. In the United Kingdom, where the initial attack threw parts of the health care system into chaos Friday, the government scheduled an emergency meeting Monday afternoon to discuss the attack.

A Cybercpace Administration of China official said on Monday, that although the virus is still spreading, it has slowed. The company rates the update as "critical" for supported Windows releases.

A runaway strain of malware hit Windows computers Friday and spread through the weekend, rendering hundreds of thousands of computers around the world more or less useless.

The organisation also said that many organisations had failed to keep their systems up to date, allowing the virus to spread.

Elsewhere in Asia, Japan's National Police Agency reported two breaches of computers in the country on Sunday - one at a hospital and the other case involving a private person - but no loss of funds. Companies including Hitachi and Nissan Motor Co. reported problems but said they said had not seriously affected their business operations.

There are apprehensions that a second wave of the attack may arrive Monday as employees return and switch on affected computers. By late morning, some people were still manually filling out forms, but 70 percent of systems were online.

Although the announcement was "too late to contain the WannaCry outbreak", the report said.

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