Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Medicine | By Earnest Bishop

WannaCry virus infects 48000 computer systems in India

If payment is not made after seven days, the encrypted files will be deleted. But now that experts have had a good look at the code, it appears WannaCry is a worm, not a phishing attack, and spreads not through an executable file but by manipulating each infected computer to send copies of itself out on the computer's network.

Should I pay the ransom?

Microsoft, despite knowing the vulnerabilities present in its PC software, chose to withhold the release of the security patch for a certain section of clients, which were running older (ex: Windows Vista & Windows XP) versions on their company systems, according to Financial Times. When the unsuspecting victims activated WannaCry by clicking on a phishing email message, all of the data on their hard drives was locked up and they were instructed to make a 300-bitcoin payment to re-access it. [Bitcoin is the anonymous web currency that worldwide monetary authorities initially tried to ban; it's now equivalent to about $1,800, which is $600 more than the current value of an ounce of gold.] The ransom notes were written in 20 different languages. Those running Windows 10 are safe from harm; WannaCry targets older versions of Microsoft's OS, including Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8.1.

The vulnerability in the Microsoft Windows software - exploited by WannaCrypt - crippled computers across 150 countries, with hackers demanding hundreds of dollars from the users for them to regain control over their data. To release the files, victims are instructed to pay a ransom. The company issued a security bulletin disclosing potential security concerns for both products this week and is advising customers to isolate the products to prevent infection from other vulnerable computers on the same network.

Like WannaCry, the program attacks via a flaw in Microsoft's Windows software. Even SBI and Central Bank, among others were badly hit by such attacks. On the underground dark web, they said, another NSA tool has been weaponised and offered for sale, and hackers are discussing how to use another dozen agency exploits. "Those who have Windows Update enabled are protected against attacks on this vulnerability".

Nicolas Drogou, Head - Security Practice, Asia Pacific, Orange Business Services informed us what he observed in Singapore.

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In fact Altaf Halde, Managing Director, Kaspersky Lab, South Asia mentioned in a statement, "In our research we found that a large percentage of attacks globally by WannaCry happened in India and the country was third on the total number of attacks".

But Roger Kay, an analyst at Endpoint Technologies, a medical information consulting service, said the fees exposed Microsoft to the same criticism of price-gouging that drugmakers face when they charge high prices for life-saving drugs. Experts say the best way to protect yourself from WannaCry is to take a multi-pronged approach: make backups, patch software, upgrade to the latest operating system and isolate infected systems.

So why was the NHS using an old system? Not only does it encourage others to carry out similar crimes, it doesn't necessarily even work. The airline industry, for instance, notoriously holds on to legacy infrastructure. It patched all operating systems bar Windows XP. However, the outdated software of ATMs was least affected.

WannaCry, along with a very effective encryption or file locking mechanism, had the ability to infect systems with frightening efficiency. Lives are at stake here.

"Clearly having the vulnerability be in Microsoft software was one of the key elements", said Steve Grobman, chief technology officer of McAfee, a security company in Santa Clara, California.

Bitcoin wallets are open - you can see inside them.

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