NCSC urges vigilance in wake of cyber attack

Elizabeth Williams
May 23, 2017

Romania is among the 10 most affected countries.

Computers in more than 150 countries have been hit by what experts are calling an unprecedented mass cyberattack using ransomware.

"Since the global coordinated ransomware attack on thousands of private and public sector organisations across dozens of countries on Friday, there have been no sustained new attacks of that kind", the NCSC said in a statement.

Reuters reported that U.S President Donald Trump ordered his homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, to hold an emergency meeting Friday night to assess the threat posed by the ransomware attack.

The effects were felt across the globe, with Russia's Interior Ministry and companies including Spain's Telefonica, FedEx Corp.in the US and French carmaker Renault all reporting disruptions.

The attacks hit a whole range of organisations and businesses worldwide. These WannaCry/WannaCrypt0r 2.0 attacks have come at a time when the implications of cyber attacks are becoming clearer to politicians who are now at their receiving end.

The malware is a type of ransomware that seems to have spread via a computer virus known as a worm, meaning that it can move throughout a network without human interaction.

But the attack, allegedly by Russian hackers, on the Hillary Clinton and Emmanuel Macron campaigns, which led to the leaking of several key documents and emails, have wisened political parties on the need to firm up security.

But as Asia woke up to the working week on Monday, leading Chinese security-software provider Qihoo 360 said "hundreds of thousands" of computers in the country were hit at almost 30,000 institutions including government agencies.

Experts think it unlikely to have been one person, with criminally minded cyber crime syndicates nowadays going underground and using ever more sophisticated encryption to hide their activities.

How can I protect my computer from the ransomware virus?

Microsoft said in a blog post that it was taking the "highly unusual" step of providing the patch for older versions of Windows it was otherwise no longer supporting, including Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

Kaspersky said it was seeking to develop a decryption tool "as soon as possible".

Europol provides free decryption downloads for most ransomware already detected, though not yet for this particular attack.

Payment is demanded within three days or the price is doubled, and if none is received within seven days, the files will be deleted, according to the screen message.

Experts advise people not to pay, as it would only encourage the attackers, there is no guarantee that they will unblock files, and may result in them gaining access to victims' bank details.

Other reports by VgToday

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