Log in, look out: Cyber chaos spreads with workweek's start

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21 May, 2017

The cyberextortion attack hitting dozens of countries was a "perfect storm" of sorts. Although a researcher was fortunate enough to accidentally stop the initial wave of attacks, recent reports indicate that the attackers have launched a new round of attacks.

The malware is believed to make use of an NSA hacking tool called Eternal Blue that makes it easier to invade older Windows machines.

"There's some truth to the idea that people are always going to hack themselves", said Dan Wire, a spokesman for security firm FireEye.

WannaCry-infected computers notify victims with a menacing looking pop up that demands about $300 in bitcoins to restore the files.

Microsoft rolled out over the weekend a patch for Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Windows 8, which are operating systems for which it no longer provides mainstream support.

Computers linked to the Gujarat State Wide Area Network (GSWAN), one of country's largest IP-based IT infrastructure connecting taluka-level government offices to the state capital with around 45,000 computers, are being monitored closely, said Science and Technology Department secretary Dhananjay Dwivedi.

Vox said black hat hackers have started to create new versions of the software that did not have the original WannaCry's vulnerabilities.

"WannaCry" encrypts files with the following extensions, appending.WCRY to the end of the file name like.lay6, .sqlite3, .sqlitedb, .accdb, .java and.docx among others.

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"Perform regular backups of all critical information to limit the impact of data or system loss and to help expedite the recovery process". Many run single tasks, and are rarely updated, or even noticed, by IT staff. With this attack, Abrams recommends trying to recover the "shadow volume" copies some versions of Windows have. It has not responded to repeated requests for comment about the ransomware attack. The same goes for cloud services, though they can be helpful.

It turns out the ransomware made requests to the domain - iuqerfsodp9ifjaposdfjhgosurijfaewrwergwea.com - and if the connection was not successful, it ransomed the system. Brad Smith, Microsoft's top lawyer, criticized US intelligence agencies for "stockpiling" software code that can be used by hackers. Experts say this vulnerability has been understood among experts for months, yet too many organizations either failed to take it seriously or chose not to share what they'd found.

Technical staff scrambled on Sunday to patch computers and restore infected ones for fear that the ransomware worm that stopped vehicle factories, hospitals, shops and schools could wreak fresh havoc on Monday, when employees log back in. "I hope that if another attack occurs, the damage will be a lot less".

Defence minister Michael Fallon told the BBC the government under Prime Minister Theresa May was spending around 50 million pounds on improving the computer systems in the NHS after warning the service that it needed to reduce its exposure to "the weakest system, the Windows XP". Yet in an unusual step, they released a patch for those older systems because of the magnitude of the outbreak.

Using antivirus software will at least protect you from the most basic, well-known viruses by scanning your system against the known fingerprints of these pests.

Beware of unknown emails, especially if there are attachments or links. And that's for a simple reason: Individuals and organizations alike are fundamentally bad about keeping their computers up-to-date with security fixes. Shutting down a network can prevent the continued encryption - and possible loss - of more files.

Lastly there are, of course, the attackers, who kidnapped precious data and demanded ransom be paid.


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