Published: Mon, May 15, 2017
Health Care | By Oscar Goodwin

Global cyber attack may not be finished yet

Global cyber attack may not be finished yet

Friday's attack was unprecedented in its reach with more than 200,000 victims in at least 150 countries but warns of a more escalating threat as the number of victims will grow when people go to work and turn their machines on Monday morning, CNN quoted Rob Wainwright, the head of the European Union's law enforcement agency Europol as saying.

Monday was expected to be a busy day, especially in Asia which may not have seen the worst of the impact yet, as companies and organizations turned on their computers.

Banks have largely escaped the global attack "because they've learned from painful experience of being the number one target for cybercrime", Wainwright said.

However, security researchers say firms that fail to keep their software up-to-date are also responsible for the ransomware outbreak.

The 22-year-old researcher known as "MalwareTech", who wanted to remain anonymous, said he spotted a hidden web address in the "WannaCry" code and made it official by registering its domain name. The ransomware was created to repeatedly contact an unregistered domain in its code.

The virus exploits a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows software, first identified by the US National Security Agency.

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A hacker could change the code to remove the domain and try the ransomware attack again.

Mark Mager, senior researcher at security firm Endgame, said it's the most prevalent and effective example of ransomware worming through networks around the world. Experts suggested Saturday that the ransomware's progress had been halted, but new attacks could soon follow.

About 97 percent of United Kingdom facilities and doctors disabled by the attack were back to normal operation, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said Saturday after a government meeting.

Europol's Wainwright underscored the point Sunday.

"Hackers will realise that hospitals can be hacked relatively easily, and of course that hospitals have very sensitive data and we need that to manage our patients and it's time-critical data".

The ransomware, called WannaCry, locks down files on an infected computer and asks the computer's administrator to pay in order to regain control of them.

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Microsoft issued a security patch for the Windows flaw in March, but many people and institutions had not downloaded that fix. Director Dennis So said the systems were not connected to the malls' or tenants' networks.

However, it seems that many NHS trusts had not applied it or were using an older version of the operating system which is no longer supported - Windows XP.

The patches won't do any good for machines that have already been hit.

He said Europol and other agencies did not yet know who was behind the attack but "normally it is criminally minded and that is our first working theory for obvious reasons". He added that ransomware attacks were normally criminal rather than political in nature. Mobile phone companies, network vendors and tower operators are keeping a close watch for any disruption in operations in the aftermath of Saturday's deadly ransomware cyber attack that infected millions of computers in almost 100 countries, including India, Russia, China and UK. Two big telecom companies, Telefónica of Spain and Megafon of Russian Federation, were also hit.

The attack, which began Friday, is believed to be the biggest online extortion attack ever recorded, with victims including Britain's hospital network and Germany's national railway. State media reported that digital payment systems at PetroChina gas stations were offline, forcing customers to pay cash. Robinson, in an interview by email, said he calculated the total based on payments tracked to Bitcoin addresses specified in the ransom demands.

According to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), it has activated a "preparedness and response mechanism" by instructing CERT-IN (Computer Emergency Response Team) to gather "all the information of the reported ransomware".

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