Friday, 18 August, 2017

Cyberattack's impact could worsen in 'second wave' of ransomware

Ben Pena | 19 May, 2017, 20:45

Dozens of countries were hit with a huge cyberextortion attack Friday that locked up computers and held users' files for ransom at a multitude of hospitals, companies and government agencies.

It's on track to be one of the biggest recorded ransomware attacks ever, with tens of thousands of infected computers in almost 100 countries. Brad Smith criticized US intelligence agencies, including the CIA and National Security Agency, for "stockpiling" software code that can be used by hackers.

More than 75,000 similar attacks reportedly happened in nearly 100 countries, with Russia, Ukraine and Taiwan hardest hit, according to the cybersecurity firm Avast.

Cybersecurity experts believe the attack was carried out with the help of tools first developed by the U.S. National Security Agency for targeting terrorists and foreign adversaries, which was leaked to the public by a hacker group called The Shadow Brokers in April. It said less than 1% of computers were affected, and that the virus was now "localized" and being destroyed. Within a few hours, the malware infected victims in 74 countries, including Russia, Turkey, Germany, Vietnam, and the Philippines, and it is likely spreading at a rate of five million emails per hour, said, experts.

After taking computers over, the virus displayed messages demanding a payment of $300 in virtual currency Bitcoin to unlock files and return them to the user. "We are in the second wave", said Matthieu Suiche of Comae Technologies, a cybersecurity company based in the United Arab Emirates.

The "unprecedented" ransomware cyberattack has hit as many as 200,000 victims in over 150 countries, Europe's leading security chief said today and warned of another "imminent attack".

"It's this constant battle", Ryan O'Leary, vice president of WhiteHat Security's threat research center, said. Companies including Hitachi and Nissan Motor Co. reported problems but said they had not seriously affected their operations.

Mark Mager, senior researcher at security firm Endgame, said it's the most prevalent and effective example of ransomware worming through networks around the world.

Larry Magid, a technology journalist and CEO of ConnectSafely.org, said: "There is some speculation that this code was being stored in the NSA labs, potentially as a cyber weapon that the USA might have used against its own adversaries". The tools appeared stolen by hackers, who dumped them on the internet.

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But the patches won't do any good for machines that have already been hit.

Microsoft generally charges hefty fees for providing custom support for older version of Windows.

Hospitals across Britain found themselves without access to their computers or phone systems. "At this stage we do not have any evidence that patient data has been accessed", it said. Organizations such as Renault or the NHS were struck and crippled by the attack.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the government was monitoring the situation closely.

"It's an worldwide attack and a number of countries and organisations have been affected", British Prime Minister Theresa May said. It took advantage of a vulnerability in Windows that allowed it to infect PCs. Authorities said they were communicating with more than 100 energy, transportation, telecommunications and financial services providers about the attack. Two big telecom companies, Telefónica of Spain and Megafon of Russian Federation, were also hit.

"In India, no reports have been formally received so far regarding this ransomware attack".

The attack largely infected networks that used out-of-date software, such as Windows XP, which Microsoft no longer offers technical support for.

"Looking at the trends, it was going to happen", he said.

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