Log in, look out: Cyber chaos spreads with workweek's start

by Joy Montgomery May 17, 2017, 0:48

On the heels of a widespread ransomware attack that may have used leaked National Security Agency hacking methods, Microsoft is calling for governments to cease stockpiling secret means of bypassing software security.

Following the alert, the Gujarat government began equipping its State computer systems with anti-virus softwares and upgrading its Microsoft operating systems. But he also said the incident was a "wake-up call" for governments.

The initial attack was stifled when a security researcher disabled a key mechanism used by the worm to spread, but experts said the hackers were likely to mount a second attack because so many users of personal computers with Microsoft operating systems couldn't or didn't download a security patch released in March that Microsoft had labelled "critical".

The researcher, identified only as "MalwareTech", found a "kill switch" within the ransomware as he studied its structure.

The "kill" function had not been activated by whoever unleashed the ransomware, and the researcher found that the secret URL had not been registered to anyone by global internet administrators.

Straight out of an episode of Mr. Robot, WannaCry (Wcry, WannaCrypt, WanaCrypt0r 2.0, or Wanna Decryptor) is a malicious software package that infects computers running Microsoft Windows. "What made the WannaCry attack so different is that it was done on a global scale, spreading to 150 countries, impacting over 10,000 organisations and 200,000 individuals - exploiting a security flaw in Windows XP", states Potgieter.

Microsoft is now confirming that the WannaCrypt exploits used in the attack on Friday were drawn from the trove of exploits stolen from the NSA. Whatever its source, it was published on the internet last month by a hacker group called ShadowBrokers. Because numerous computers impacted run older Windows systems like XP, Microsoft issued a rare patch for XP, which it had stopped updating more than three years ago.

Run Windows Update: Updating your computer should ensure you have the latest security software to protect against viruses or malware.

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Later in the day, the Maharashtra Police department said it was partially hit by the ransomware.

FILE - This April 12, 2016 file photo shows the Microsoft logo in Issy-les-Moulineaux, outside Paris, France. (Intelligence officials wouldn't comment on the authenticity of the claims.) The tools appeared stolen by hackers, who dumped them on the internet.

In Britain, whose health service was among the first high-profile targets of the attack Friday, some hospitals and doctors' offices were still struggling to recover.

The government held an emergency meeting Saturday of its crisis response committee, known as COBRA, to assess the damage.

"Work is ongoing to restore our IT systems", United Lincolnshire said in a statement on the hospital website.

The hospital also says it needs to cancel some patient appointments in order to "run services safely" and that affected patients will be directly contacted as hospital IT staff continue to bring the services back up to normal levels of operation.

The ransomware virus is so lethal and smart that "it also drops a file named '!Please Read Me!.txt' which contains the text explaining what has happened (to the computer) and how to pay the ransom".

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