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

Microsoft slams US government over global cyber attack

Organizations are scrambling to apply the latest security patch to their computers to prevent the spread of the attack. They thought that they did everything that they could to defend their systems, but wannacry disabled many institutions so fast that in the countries most affected, many hospitals were unable to function even though their IT systems are usually the best when it comes to security.

Meanwhile, Microsoft said governments around the world should treat the attacks as a "wake-up call". But millions of individuals and smaller businesses still had such systems. Many machines at the National Health Service were running on Windows XP, a system Microsoft stopped supporting years ago, so there was no patch available for its systems. In March the company released a patch, or security upgrade, to protect computers against the ransomware involved in this weekend's attack. Thousands of private and public sector organisations across dozens of countries on Friday faced inoperable computers and forced hospitals in the cancel procedures and use only pen and paper. The virus took control of users' files and demanded $300 (£230) payments to restore access.

President Trump's homeland security adviser Tom Bossert told "Good Morning America" that the unprecedented global cyberattack sends an "urgent call for collective action" by governments throughout the world.

Kaspersky has listed Viet Nam among the top 20 countries most affected by this ransomware; the other countries and territories include Russia, Ukraine, India, Taiwan, and mainland China.

Exploits in the hands of governments have repeatedly leaked into the public domain and caused widespread damage, wrote Smith, who compared the leaks of Central Intelligence Agency and NSA vulnerabilities to the US military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen.

The malicious software - known as WannaCrypt or WannaCry - is widely believed to have been developed as a hacking tool by the US National Security Agency.

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When the National Security Agency lost control of the software behind the WannaCry cyberattack, it was like "the USA military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen", Microsoft President Brad Smith says, in a message about the malicious software that has created havoc on computer networks in more than 150 countries since Friday.

He added that governments should "report vulnerabilities" that they discover to software companies, "rather than stockpile, sell, or exploit them". On Friday, May 12 the software giant had issued an update to Windows Defender, enabling the anti-malware product, which ships with Windows, to detect and block the ransomware.

He wrote: "They need to take a different approach and adhere in cyberspace to the same rules applied to weapons in the physical world".

The virus exploits a flaw in a version of Microsoft Windows first identified by U.S. intelligence.

The NSA alerted Microsoft about the issue three months ago and the company released an upgrade that patched the flaw.

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