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

Microsoft President Slams NSA For Massive Ransomware Attack

Microsoft President Slams NSA For Massive Ransomware Attack

Some of the attack's victims were ignoring advice from officials and paying the $300 ransom to unlock their computers, which later doubled to $600. That's why it's called ransomware.

Senior US security officials held another meeting in the White House Situation Room on Saturday, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the NSA were working to help mitigate damage and identify the perpetrators of the massive cyber attack, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

At the moment, all PCs that do not have the latest Microsoft security updates are vulnerable to attack by the ransomware.

Companies and institutions are often slow to update their computers because it can screw up internal software that is built to work with a certain version of Windows.

Consumers are also at risk.

British media credited a 22-year-old computer security expert who helped stop the attack from spreading by discovering an internet address that halted the virus when activated.

The cyberattack, which began in London on Friday morning, has so far affected 150 countries and locked 200,000 computers.

Under former President Barack Obama, the US government created an inter-agency review, known as the Vulnerability Equities Process, to determine whether flaws should be shared or kept secret.

In the United Kingdom, hospitals were crippled by the cyberattack, which forced operations to be canceled and ambulances to be diverted.

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The interior ministry, railways, banks and the Megafon mobile phone operator - Russia's second-largest - all found themselves battling demands for ransom.

"NSA should be embarrassed - they've had a lot of damaging leaks", said James Lewis, a former US official who is now a cyber expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Infected computers appear to largely be out-of-date devices that organisations deemed not worth the price of upgrading or, in some cases, machines involved in manufacturing or hospital functions that proved too hard to patch without possibly disrupting crucial operations, security experts said.

Dore said: "Using outdated versions of Windows that are no longer supported raises a lot of questions". Install Microsoft's patch. 3.

There are other artefacts in the code of the malware that might prove useful to investigators, said cyber-security expert Prof Alan Woodward from the University of Surrey.

The hackers remain anonymous for now, but it appears that they are amateurs.

Mikko Hypponen, head of research at security company F-Secure, said its analysis of the malware had not revealed any smoking gun. The number, which is likely a conservative estimate, will only embolden the hackers to become even more aggressive in their next attack.

Businesses that failed to update Microsoft Windows-based computer systems that were hit by a massive cyber attack over the weekend could be sued over their lax cyber security, but Microsoft Corp itself enjoys strong protection from lawsuits, legal experts said.

Britain's National Cyber Security Centre joined others in warning of more cases of "ransomware" attacks this week, predicting that the problem could be "at a significant scale" because some infected machines have not yet been detected, and existing infections can spread within networks.

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