Saturday, 27 May, 2017

Ransomware attack again thrusts USA spy agency into unwanted spotlight

Kayla Schwartz | 19 May, 2017, 19:29

Over the weekend, the ransomware has hit systems in more than 150 countries, including Russian Federation and the United Kingdom, in one of the most widespread cyber attacks in history.

Security firms have continually raised alarms about the NHS's reliance on Windows XP, an operating system that is no longer supported by Microsoft.

But, if you suspect that your computer is infected with a malware, do not open any files. What's this about the NSA? They used "Eternal Blue", a hacking developed by NSA collect cyber weapons and vulnerabilities in popular operating systems and software so they can use them to carry out intelligence gathering or engage in cyber warfare as per Edward Snowden, a former Central Intelligence Agency Employee. This ransomware spreads by using a vulnerability in implementations of server message block (SMB) in Windows systems. To ensure that other computers are not infected, switch off the network.

The only real security from ransomware is backups and solid security best practices.

Emails, bank account info, credit cards, passwords, are all in the hands of crooks and you have to pay a ransom before they will unlock your computer so you can get your files back. The researcher discovered that the web address that WannaCry was searching for had not been registered. Sunnyvale-based security firm ProofPoint says one of its employees in France first noticed WannaCry's digital "signature" matched up with the purported NSA code leaked by the Shadow Brokers. He also recommended installing the "Windows Defender" anti-malware program, regularly backing up all files on a separate drive, and never opening suspicious software programs and files. Then, a 22-year-old security researcher in the United Kingdom who's known by the pseudonym MalwareTech discovered that WannaCry was reaching out to a specific web address every time it infected a new computer.

Trump aims to strengthen ties in Saudi Arabia visit
His visit is highly symbolic, as he looks to fix America's relationship with its closest Arab ally. "Israel, too, is looking for reassurance".

Though a few companies in North America were hit by WannaCry, such as FedEx (FDX), U.S. businesses were largely able to avoid the malware because a 22-year-old British security researcher accidentally found a "killswitch" that halted its spread. So, is the threat over? Sophisticated ransomware usually has an automated way to accept payments from victims who want to unlock their computers. And it's possible the attackers behind WannaCry are already working on a new version without a kill switch. According to ProofPoint, the main motive for ransomware is profit. In addition, there is no guarantee that user will get access ever after the payment.

India is also coordinating with global agencies, cleaning up the malware and conducting cyber drill regularly to foil possible cyber attacks. There are also other theories.

The cyber attack has been deemed as the biggest in history even as IT specialists suggest that the cyber criminals responsible have not made much monetary benefits.

Because this attack is so contagious - it self-propagates, slithering from computer to computer without any human help - Microsoft decided it had to build a patch for that antique system too.

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