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Dozens of countries hit by huge cyberextortion attack

15 May, 2017, 09:39 | Author: Jan Cross
  • The Latest: Chinese universities hit by extortion attack

The WannaCry malware exploits a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows that was reportedly developed and used by the U.S. National Security Agency. The official was not authorized to be publicly named. While most organizations won't suffer as much as the United Kingdom health-care facilities, the incident renewed the debate about the risk of governments stockpiling flaws in commercial technology and using them for hacking attacks.

In England, 48 National Health Service (NHS) trusts reported problems at hospitals, doctor surgeries or pharmacies, and 13 NHS organisations in Scotland were also affected.

But the NHS says that most of its systems are now still receiving patches and security updates from Microsoft.

"IT managers need to be extremely aware that new variants of this ransomware attack are being launched nearly hourly, so they can't just check that their computer systems are protected, then relax, assuming everything will stay that way", he said.

Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies, including Europol, say they are hunting for the culprits behind the WannaCry campaign. But computers and networks that haven't updated their systems are at risk.

"Appropriate economy-wide policy responses are needed", the ministers said in their draft statement, seen by Reuters.

Two researchers in their 20's had halted the ransomeware attack on Saturday after discovering and activating the software's "kill switch".

Russia's Interior Ministry, with oversees the police forces, said about "1,000 computers were infected", which it described as less than 1 percent of the total, according to its website. Unfortunately, the malware, known as WannaCrypt, appears to have affected computers that have not applied the patch for these vulnerabilities.

Microsoft has released fixes for vulnerabilities and related tools disclosed by TheShadowBrokers, a mysterious group that has repeatedly published alleged NSA software code.

As you may have heard, a massive ransomware attack has infected PCs in at least 99 countries. Shortly after that disclosure, Microsoft announced that it had already issued software "patches," or fixes, for those holes - but many users haven't yet installed the fixes or are using older versions of Windows. The initial demand was for $300 in bitcoins, but it now has gone up to $600 worth of the currency, Gazeley said.

Pyotr Lidov, a spokesman for Megafon, said Friday's attacks froze computers in company's offices across Russian Federation.

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Lieu said it is "deeply disturbing" the NSA likely wrote the original malware used to ransom computers.

"Ransomware developers and attackers tend to borrow, copy and steal techniques and software from each other", he said.

Spain's Telefonica, a global broadband and telecommunications company, was among the companies hit.

There were no details on which companies were targeted or the origin of the attack.

Apple's Mac computers were not targeted by this ransomware attack so are clear. "They've learned through painful experience of being the number-one target for cybercrime, and I think the health sector and others should follow the example of some others so that they now sit up and take notice of what is absolutely a huge, strategic concern", Wainwright said.

He says if a new variant without a so-called kill switch pops up, then organizations will be on their own to prevent it from taking over their computers. Patients were asked not to go to hospitals unless it was an emergency and even some key services like chemotherapy were canceled.

A senior nurse with NHS Lanarkshire in Scotland posted a video on Twitter appealing to members of the public "to stay away from acute hospitals unless it's an absolute emergency situation" while its IT systems remain affected.

The Barts Health group, which manages major central London hospitals including The Royal London and St Bartholomew's, said it had activated a major incident plan and had canceled routine appointments.

Security experts said that they were not sure how many victims would pay the ransoms, or if access to computers was being restored after such payments.

The director-general of Indonesia's Communication and Information Ministry says in a statement that the malware locked patient files on computers at the affected hospitals, both in the capital Jakarta.

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