Published: Sat, May 20, 2017
Hi-Tech | By Grace Becker

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One of the most unsafe malware attacks to have ever happened, occurred this past week called the WannaCry ransomware attack, putting major companies and institutions on the brink of losing their data. WannaCry had been "discovered" by hackers who stole information from the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA); affected machines were Windows desktops, notebooks and servers that were not up to date on security patches. The Ransomware virus had stopped vehicle factories, hospitals, shops and schools in over 75 countries."The Ransomware virus is a virus that affects computer systems and locks up the files on your computer and encrypts them in a way that you can not access them anymore", said Harinder Singh Sekhon, in-charge, cyber cell.He added, "Ransomware is a programme that gets into your computer only by downloading and it will ask you to pay ransom in Bitcoins". In March, Microsoft released a security update for supported operating systems which addresses the vulnerability that WannaCry exploits.

Avast, an global security software firm that claims it has 400 million users worldwide, said the ransomware attacks rose rapidly Saturday to a peak of 57,000 detected intrusions.

Every software weakness the NSA (or Central Intelligence Agency, or FBI) decides to use for itself in total secrecy is necessarily one it won't share with a company like Microsoft so that it can write and release a software update to keep its customers safe.

The "WannaCrypt" cyber-attack (from the software's name Wanna Decryptor, and also known as WannaCry) is estimated to have hit some 200,000 organisations in at least 150 countries.

How should businesses respond to ransomware attacks?

The most affected are America shipping companies and healthcare systems in the United Kingdom. "However, the reused code appears to have been removed from later versions of WannaCry, which according to Kaspersky gives less weight to the false flag theory".

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Second, use state-of-the-art tools to protect the network against known and unknown malware and attacks. The longer you wait, the more you have to pay. Kaspersky Lab says that the majority of affected systems were in Russian Federation. A new variant of the WannaCry attack surfaced on Monday, according to cybersecurity firm Check Point Software Technologies, but the firm stopped it by using the kill switch, Reuters reports.

The only real security from ransomware is backups and solid security best practices.

FedEx, French automaker Renault and Spanish telecommunications firm Telefonica are among those attacked. Hackers will sometimes encourage you to keep your computer on and linked to the network, but don't be fooled. This is the main reason all major malware attacks are mainly affecting proprietary software like Microsoft Windows operating systems. Still, beyond the piracy issue, we will no doubt hear for weeks about WannaCry infections because some organizations will be slow to install the patches.

Microsoft is pointing its finger at the US Government, while many experts say the software giant is also accountable. Microsoft surely wants to continue to sell successive versions of Windows every several years and gradually forget about its earlier attempts-it's the business they're in. "We need governments to consider the damage to civilians that comes from hoarding these vulnerabilities and the use of these exploits", he said.

Smith said that Microsoft proposed in February a new "Digital Geneva Convention" that would include a new requirement for governments to report software vulnerabilities to vendors, rather than stockpile, sell or exploit them.

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