Thursday, 28 May, 2020

'WannaCry' ransomware attack: What we know

Rosalie Gross | 21 May, 2017, 02:46

Cyber security experts said the spread of the worm dubbed WannaCry - "ransomware" that locked up more than 200,000 computers in more than 150 countries - had slowed but that the respite might only be brief amid fears it could cause new havoc on Monday when employees return to work. The software can run in 27 different language, according to US cybersecurity officials.

Microsoft's Smith said the latest attack provides "yet another example of why the stockpiling of vulnerabilities by governments is such a problem".

"We have seen vulnerabilities stored by the Central Intelligence Agency show up on WikiLeaks, and now this vulnerability stolen from the NSA has affected customers around the world", wrote Smith. The security flaw that hackers used to launch the attacks on Friday was made public after information was stolen from the NSA, which routinely searches for flaws in software and builds tools to exploit them, the report said.

"An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the United States military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen", Smith wrote. But as workers returned Monday morning, a fresh round of infections were possible, authorities have warned.

"How did the malware manage to spread if Microsoft had already shipped a Windows update that fixed the vulnerability WannaCrypt was exploiting?" wrote Forbes contributor Lee Mathews.

The virus, which took control of users' files, spread to 100 countries, including Spain, France and Russian Federation.

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Some hospitals were forced to cancel procedures and appointments, as ambulances were directed to neighbouring hospitals free from the computer virus.

Once installed, WannaCry locks the files on a computer and asks its victims to pay approximately $300 by Bitcoin within a few hours. The ransomware also spreads through malicious attachments to emails.

Efforts by IT security researchers to get to the bottom of the recent ransomware attack have been hampered by an inability to find early traces of the so-called WannaCry strain, according to research commissioned by Reuters and conducted by security ratings firm BitSight. If the ransomware has only blocked access to your internet browser, you may be able to regain control by accessing your computer's task manager and shutting down the program.

Microsoft also issued a security patch for older Windows operating systems that are no longer supported: Windows Server 2003 SP2 x64, Windows Server 2003 SP2 x86, Windows XP SP2 x64, Windows XP SP3 x86, Windows XP Embedded SP3 x86, Windows 8 x86 and Windows 8 x64 directly from Microsoft.

In Zimbabwe, many Windows computers stay unpatched.

Reuters also reports that half of all internet addresses corrupted globally by WannaCry are located in China and Russian Federation, with 30 and 20 percent respectively.

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