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

French Researchers Find Way To Unlock WannaCry Without Ransom

The malware attack, which began on Friday and has been linked by some researchers to previous hits by a North Korean-run hacking operation, leveraged a tool built by the NSA that leaked online in April, Microsoft says.

A free tool called Wannakey can allow users to decrypt the files on some computers that have fallen victim to the WannaCry ransomware. It's important to note that the most likely initial attack vector is a phishing attempt that users may fall for to install the ransomware onto their computers. The virus took control of users' files and demanded $300 payments to restore access, the BBC report said. "We need governments to consider the damage to civilians that comes from hoarding these vulnerabilities and the use of these exploits". "There's no waving that away".

A former head of Britain's communications agency GCHQ has come out fighting following assertions by Microsoft that it was not wholly to blame for a widespread cyber attack which disrupted much of the NHS over the weekend. Spain's Telefónica and several other large companies, FedEx, Deutsche Bank, as well as the Russian Interior Ministry and Russian telecom MegaFon, Nissan and Vivo have shut down their infected systems and trying to mitigate the risk. The VEP was established to determine whether the government should withhold or disclose information about computer software security vulnerabilities.

Europol said on Twitter that its European Cybercrime Centre had tested the team's new tool and said it was "found to recover data in some circumstances".

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Last Friday, the company's British-based 22-year-old data breach research chief, Marcus Hutchins, created a "kill-switch", which security experts have widely hailed as the decisive step in halting the ransomware's rapid spread around the globe.

Because it's possible for the perpetrators to alter the code to use a different domain, MalwareTech and others warned the ransomware could continue spreading.

Data from BitSight covering 160,000 internet-connected computers hit by WannaCry, shows that Windows 7 accounts for 67 percent of infections, although it represents less than half of the global distribution of Windows PC users.

"As cybercriminals become more sophisticated, there is simply no way for customers to protect themselves against threats unless they update their systems", BBC quoted Smith as saying.

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