Published: Tue, May 16, 2017
Health Care | By Oscar Goodwin

WannaCry Ransomware: Microsoft Calls Out NSA For 'Stockpiling' Vulnerabilities

WannaCry is a ransomware virus that holds computers hostage until the user meets the demands.

After the WannaCry cyberattack hit computer systems worldwide, Microsoft says governments should report software vulnerabilities instead of collecting them.

On affected computers, the WannaCry software encrypts files and displays a ransom message demanding $300 in bitcoin.

Responding to the incident, the company's president and chief legal officer, Brad Smith, criticized the us government's weaponizing of computer vulnerabilities, the leak of which enabled this attack, and the dangers of not informing tech companies about them.

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"This is an emerging pattern in 2017", Smith says in a Microsoft company blog post.

But he also placed fault in the governments.

- The ransomware cyberattack known as "WannaCry" infected hundreds of thousands of computers globally on Friday, but the malware was first detected in March and publicly reported stolen from the United States National Security Agency a month later.

The government is not legally bound to notify at-risk companies. Meanwhile, as Microsoft argued, the government's practice of stockpiling exploits and keeping them secret makes it all the more unsafe when they're leaked. Repeatedly, exploits in the hands of governments have leaked into the public domain and caused widespread damage. And while Microsoft had already released a security update to patch the vulnerability one month earlier, the sequence of events fed speculation that the NSA hadn't told the USA tech giant about the security risk until after it had been stolen.

How to avoid the ransomware attack
The ransomware locks down computers and has been demanding payments of $US300 ($AU406) to $US600 ($AU812) to restore access. An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the USA military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen.

Aside from taking a position on the wider outcome and implication of what will become a notorious cyberattack, Smith also took the time to underline Microsoft's commitment to resolving the situation-beginning with a dedicated force of 3,500 security engineers now working to help customers around the world recover their systems.

"As cybercriminals become more sophisticated, there is simply no way for customers to protect themselves against threats unless they update their systems", he wrote.

"More action is needed, and it's needed now", he said.

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