Saturday, 27 May, 2017

WannaCry Ransomware Attack Linked to North Korea, Cybersecurity Experts Say

Ben Pena | 19 May, 2017, 18:53

WannaCry was one of the first highly publicized attacks in which ransomware was weaponized and used against numerous companies at once, there will undoubtedly be future attacks. The huge cyber-breached event, which kicked off on Friday, spread like never before and affected millions of computers and computerised data in over 150 countries.

Alex is a technical writer for Firebrand Training.

With ransomware attacks, the malware locks down a target machine, encrypting its data and preventing the owner from accessing it until he or she agrees to pay up.

As the situation unfolds - with latest reports pointing the finger of accusation toward North Korea - the question remains: why was the NHS so vulnerable to Wannacry?

Nicolas Godier, a researcher at the computer security firm told AFP, "It uses the hacking tools recently disclosed by the NSA and which have since been fixed by Microsoft in a more stealthy manner and for a different objective", he said.

The exploit was leaked on 14 April 2017 by hacking group The Shadow Brokers. "And this most recent attack represents a completely unintended but disconcerting link between the two most serious forms of cybersecurity threats in the world today - nation-state action and organized criminal action".

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

The WannaCry infections were so bad that Microsoft, in a surprising move, released a patch to update old, unsupported Windows systems. In particular, users could have had much more time to update their software - which would have substantially increased the number of people protected against the vulnerability.

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According to the FT, the cost of updating older Windows versions "went from US$200 (RM865.50) per device in 2014, when regular support for XP ended, to US$400 the following year", while some clients were asked to pay heftier fees. The need of the hour is to have an global convention on cyber law and cyber security.

Ransomware WannaCry last week ripped through hundreds of thousands of PCs in what is considered the largest ever cyber-extortion scheme.

It's unclear who the attackers are, but we do somewhat know about the origins of the ransomware. If your machine becomes infected, you can easily restore your data.

Keep all software up-to-date, including all security updates and patches.

You should also be using anti-malware software such as the free Windows Defender that comes with new versions of Windows or commercial products like those from Trend Micro, Symantec and other companies.

The WannaCry virus targetted a government-run hospital in Ganjam district, Odisha, PTI reported. Employees of Britain's public health service were locked out of computers, systems inside Russia's highly secure Interior Ministry were afflicted, German train passengers were confronted with ransomware messages at stations across the country, universities in China were attacked, and data was held hostage in Australia, Turkey, India, Italy, Taiwan, the Philippines, Japan, Mexico, and more.

Ransomware attacks represent about 22 percent of all global incidents NTT Security, an information security and risk management firm, handles for clients, said Kai Grunwitz, the firm's senior vice president for central Europe. It's a warning that cyber attacks soon may be as frequent as, well, the scenario played out in Groundhog Day, thanks to a top-secret agency tasked with keeping us safe. "This attack provides yet another example of why the stockpiling of vulnerabilities by governments is such a problem". But such announcements are often ignored, especially by smaller businesses using outdated and unsupported Microsoft software. "An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the USA military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen".

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