Cyberattack is 'wake-up call' for governments

Owen Stevens
May 16, 2017

Cybersecurity firm Avast said it had identified more than 75,000 ransomware attacks in 99 countries on Friday, making it one of the broadest and most damaging cyberattacks in history. Both said Russian Federation was hit hardest.

A security expert in England has been hailed as an "accidental hero" for quashing the spread of the initial version of the ransomware late Friday. The malware was reportedly released on April 14 by a hacker group called Shadow Brokers, which claimed past year to have stolen a cache of "cyber weapons" from the federal agency. While this particular ransomware was inadvertently stopped, hackers could modify the code and try again.

Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert speaks about recent cyber attacks during a briefing at the White House. Europol, the European Union's police agency, said the onslaught was at "an unprecedented level and will require a complex global investigation to identify the culprits". 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.

On Friday, the whole world was met with a cyber-attack like no other. "It's a big priority of mine that we protect the financial infrastructure", he said.

Just a few days ago a global cyber attack was launched using the "WannaCry" ransomware.

The software tools to create the attack were revealed in April among a trove of NSA spy tools that were either leaked or stolen. The sad part of the scenario is that Microsoft released a patch in March for the security hole but many people hadn't downloaded the update.

But the patches won't do any good for machines that have already been hit. WannaCry, on the other hand, threatens to permanently lock away user files if the computer owner doesn't pay a ransom, which starts at $300 but goes up after two hours.

Avast said it had seen over 75,000 cases of the ransomware as of this weekend.

"There is no major impact in India unlike other countries".

In China, the internet security company Qihoo360 issued a "red alert" saying that a large number of colleges and students in the country had been affected by the ransomware, which is also referred to as WannaCrypt.

"When any technique is shown to be effective, there are nearly always copycats", said Steve Grobman, chief technology officer of McAfee, a security company in Santa Clara, California. As a result, any address the malware tries to reach gets a response-even if the actual domain is unregistered. Two big telecom companies, Telefónica of Spain and Megafon of Russian Federation, were also hit. The Twitter account @actual_ransom says that as of 2 p.m. Monday, the hackers behind WannaCry had made just over $55,000.

On Friday, businesses, governments and the UK's National Health Service were left scrambling in the wake of a massive ransomware attack. If you are running a Windows machine and you haven't updated it yet, you should do so immediately. Important information can be found from the Microsoft Security Bulletin MS17-010. The global cyberattack reportedly exploited a known, recently-patched Microsoft Windows vulnerability by using hacking tools believed to have been stolen from the NSA.

Consumers who have up-to-date software are protected from this ransomware.

Other reports by VgToday

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