Global cyberattack: A super-simple explanation of what happened

Guinet, a security researcher at Paris-based Quarks Lab, published the basic technique for decrypting WannaCry files on Thursday, which Delpy then figured out how to turn into a practical tool to salvage files. That's why it's called ransomware.

While the SMB exploit that enables the WannaCry ransomware worm to easily spread was taken from the Shadow Brokers, the actual code in the ransomware has a different origin.

However, the harshest criticism was left for the NSA, who had the software that was responsible for the cyberattack stolen. The tool was one of many linked to the NSA that were leaked online previous year, then finally decrypted in April for use by anyone with the requisite coding skills.

Anyone who wasn't protected by Microsoft's latest update (released in March) found that within seconds, the malware booted them out of their computer and was demanding they pay $300 (in Bitcoin) to get back in.

From hospitals to telecom companies and even government agencies and business have been targeted by WannaCry, rendering their systems useless.The hackers lock data in such a way that users can not find a workaround and sometimes the pop-ups refuse to close, making it impossible to use the systems.

Consumers are also at risk.

According to reports Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are highly vulnerable to such malware attacks as they presently run on old version of Microsoft's Windows operating system, making a software security patch update a necessary exercise.

European Union law enforcement agency Europol called the scale of the global assault "unprecedented".

According to a spokesman for Barts Health NHS Trust in London, they were experiencing a "major IT disruption" and delays at all four of its hospitals, and the ambulances were being diverted to nearby hospitals. Also known as "WannaCryptor 2.0" or simply "WCry 2.0", the virus hits Russian Interior Ministry, Russian Railways and mobile service provider Megafon.

Windows users should update their software to avoid the ransomware, security experts say.

Other countries including USA, Brazil, China, among others from North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia have been hit by the ransomware attack.

The ransomware took advantage of a flaw in Microsoft's Windows operating system. Had the NSA told Microsoft when it discovered the weakness, the patch to fix the vulnerability would have been available in enough time for even the slowest of organisations to have patched their computers. "Software updates and security patches are pushed to us as needed so that we are using the most current approved versions of software on our computers". Instead, some opportunist developers, who could be hackers themselves, spotted the leaks and added them to their own software and released them.

The WannaCry attack stoked fears that the spy agency's powerful cyber weapons could now be turned to criminal use, ratcheting up cyber security threats to a new level.

A global cyber-security firm, Avast, reported over the weekend that more than 57,000 attacks have been detected so far.

The attack, known as "WannaCry" had a major impact across Asia as workers there returned to work on Monday, with Chinese state media saying nearly 30,000 institutions there had been infected.

Experts say the spread of the virus had been stymied by a security researcher in the United Kingdom hackers have issued new versions of the virus that cyber security organizations are actively trying to counter and stamp out.

"The governments of the world should treat this attack as a wake-up call".

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)

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