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

Security experts find clues to ransomware worm's lingering risks


The so-called WannaCry hack takes advantage of a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows, leveraging an exploit stolen from the NSA in April to lock the computer systems of companies ranging from hospitals to vehicle manufacturers in exchange for ransom.

An illustration showed that once you receive an infected file typically attached to an email or a URL, an encryption key locks all your data. In a matter of minutes, your files are our of reach. If you have a backup, there's no need to pay ransom for your data.

The Filipino Times earlier reported that there was not been WannaCry cases in the UAE.

According to Symantec data, there were 463,841 ransomware attacks in 2016, up from 340,665 attacks in 2015, he said. Any user of a recent version of the operating system, such as Windows 7 or 8, can shield themselves by keeping updated. That's when the NSA told Microsoft about the vulnerability, and the company issued a security update to fix the flaw.

But then, the patches won't do any good for machines that have already been hit. The callers will now claim that you've been infected with the WannaCry ransomware, or are vulnerable to it. UK's National Health Services hit bottom as 48 out of 248 hospitals have cancelled patient's appointments.

In China, the internet security company Qihoo360 issued a "red alert" saying that a large number of colleges and students in the country had been affected by the ransomware. But because so many companies didn't apply it, the so-called WannaCry attack spread like cholera.

Fedex said Friday it was "experiencing interference with some of our windows-based systems caused by malware".

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Avivah Litan, a cybersecurity analyst at Gartner, agreed that the government is "is negligent not doing a better job protecting companies", but added that it's not like "you can stop the US government from developing cybertools" that then work as intended.

How did the attack spread so fast?

When malicious software first became a serious problem on the internet about 15 years ago, most people agreed that the biggest villain, after the authors of the damaging code, was Microsoft.

Part of the blame for this weekend's attack lies with computer users and IT managers who haven't upgraded their system.

"There are some rules and some policy that can be introduced where everybody knows how the government is going to handle these certain situations", said Greg Martin, CEO of San Francisco cybersecurity firm JASK and a former cybersecurity adviser to the FBI, Secret Service and NASA. It says ransomware attacks were "normally criminal rather than political in nature..."

For all the worldwide chaos they have caused, the ransomware attack's perpetrators have reportedly made little more than less than $70,000, according to Tom Bossert, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism.

In the blog post, the group said it was setting up a "monthly data dump" and that it could offer tools to break into web browsers, network routers, phone handsets, plus newer exploits for Windows 10 and data stolen from central banks. For example, we're fighting a war and our military needs to take down a power plant, and there are only two options: "to drop a bomb on it, or to use a cyberattack to temporarily disable it". And just as they are unlikely to pay for an upgrade to their operating systems, they may not want to - or be able to - pay for security fixes.

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