Ransomware attack should be wake-up call for governments

Neema Singh Guliani, legislative counsel at the ACLU, said the ransomware attack raises questions about agencies stockpiling vulnerabilities instead of responsibly disclosing them.

The U.S. government clearly had its priorities wrong in not focusing on better protecting these cyberweapons, he said.

The attack held users hostage by freezing their computers, popping up a red screen with the words, "Oops, your files have been encrypted!" and demanding money through online bitcoin payment - $300 at first, rising to $600 before it destroys files hours later.

"One customer said they actually forgot they were being robbed". Hospitals, universities, manufacturers and government agencies in the U.K., China, Russia, Germany and Spain have all been affected. While a United Kingdom security researcher managed to stop the spread of the virus, hackers have issued new versions that cybersecurity organizations are trying to counter and stamp out.

Businesses around the world had experts working over the weekend to prevent new infections.

The ransomware has been created to spread between computers and networks automatically with a "worm functionality", which has allowed it to quickly spread across the world.

"There will be lessons to learn from what appears to be the biggest criminal cyber-attack in history", Interior minister Amber Rudd said.

"Previous concerns of a wide-scale infection of domestic institutions did not eventuate".

The researcher, tweeting as @MalwareTechBlog, said registering a domain name used by the malware stops it from spreading, though it can not help computers already affected.

Tech companies such as Microsoft also have a responsibility to be constantly on guard with cyber security-which also means constant updates on its software systems. All sectors of the economy were vulnerable and organizations could take lessons from the banking industry, which appeared to have largely escaped the global attack. Microsoft released a patch for the vulnerability after it leaked this year, but many users may not have updated their systems.

"For now, it does not look like the number of infected computers is increasing", said a Europol spokesman.

Unfortunately, if your machine has already been infected by WannaCry and you're seeing the ransom demand, there's not much you can do. "It has been a very strong response", she said. "This messes up with the security system in the computer and makes it vulnerable to attacks", Mukesh says. Events in the recent past, however, have exposed the continuing high vulnerability of the country to cyber attacks.

U.S. package delivery giant FedEx, European auto factories, Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica, Britain's health service and Germany's Deutsche Bahn rail network were among those hit. "It was clear warnings were given to hospital trusts".

The agency and its partners in the global security community are now in a "sort of cat-and-mouse" competition with hackers, as variants of the software that foil previous solutions emerge, the official says. "We have not encountered any incident due to this attack".

"These alerts included a patch to protect their systems".

However, this is not all of the story, and the NSA is not entirely to blame for the success of the attack.

"There's nothing you can do but pay once you're hit", Camacho said in an interview.

Elsewhere in Asia, the impact seems to have been more limited. For the computers which have been affected by the malware, and they do not want to pay the ransom in bitcoins, they simply should delete all the data and start again.

Industrial conglomerate Hitachi Ltd. said the attack had affected its systems at some point over the weekend, leaving them unable to receive and send e-mails or open attachments in some cases. No major Indian corporations reported disruptions to operations. In Indonesia, the ransomware locked patient files on computers in two hospitals in the capital, Jakarta, causing delays.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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