The blame game, ransomware edition: Who's at fault?


27 May, 2017

Microsoft has called out government agencies, and the National Security Agency in particular, for stockpiling cybersecurity vulnerabilities, which led to the creation and launch of the massively damaging WannaCry ransomware.

Knowing this was a ransomworm, rather than a normal ransomware, I turned to one of the experts on malware that can spread across Windows networks, Roi Abutbul. As of Monday morning, more than 200,000 systems around the world are believed to have been infected.

It was a stress-filled weekend for many IT workers this past weekend as the WannaCry ransomware attack spread, crippling Windows systems worldwide.

- At work, check with your IT administrator to make sure your organization's devices are protected from WannaCry.

First and foremost, let's clarify exactly what WannaCry is.

What exactly does WannaCry do?

Most often the malicious software encrypts important files, making them unreadable, and often locks the computer.

If you're facing a ransom demand and locked out of your files, law enforcement and cybersecurity experts discourage paying ransoms because it gives incentives to hackers and pays for their future attacks. If the user doesn't pay the ransom without three days, the amount doubles to $600.

"The operating systems on our computers and software downloads are managed centrally so that regular users can not download executable files from the internet without administrative rights", he said in an email.

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Because of its success infiltrating systems, the software - also known as WannaCrypt, Wana Decryptor or WCry - is already inspiring imitators.

WannaCry leverages a Windows vulnerability that the NSA knew about, and which was disclosed in January 2017.

In a statement, VNCERT urged leaders of the central government, ministerial organizations, as well as companies nationwide to prevent and stop spreading of attacks by WannaCry ransomware, reported local Bao Dau Tu (Vietnam Investment Review) online newspaper on Tuesday. Also recently, the Maharashtra government has also set up a cyber security helpline to handle queries related to the infection, agencies reported.

Meanwhile, new versions of the ransomware have reportedly surfaced, including one without the kill switch exploited by a 22-year-old computer security researcher to shut the attack down.

That way even if you're hit with ransomware you've got all your files protected elsewhere.

Regardless of which operating system you run, you should install any and all available security updates immediately.

Microsoft, which no longer supports those versions of Windows, says that the vulnerability does not affect anyone using Windows 7 or any more recent version of the operating system.

Despite initial reports, India is still extremely vulnerable to WannaCry. Russia's Interior Ministry and companies including Spain's Telefonica, FedEx the US and French carmaker Renault all reported troubles. Although security firms told us some of their clients have successfully paid the attackers to decrypt their computers, they say the response time is getting slower and slower, as the attackers themselves are likely getting overwhelmed with the staggering number of requests.

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