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

World braces for more cyberattacks as work week begins

When the National Security Agency lost control of the software behind the WannaCry cyberattack, it was like "the US military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen", Microsoft President Brad Smith says, in a message about the malicious software that has created havoc on computer networks in more than 150 countries since Friday.

Exploits in the hands of governments have repeatedly leaked into the public domain and caused widespread damage, wrote Smith, who compared the leaks of Central Intelligence Agency and NSA vulnerabilities to the USA military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen.

In a blog post late Sunday, Microsoft President Brad Smith appeared to tacitly acknowledge what researchers had already widely concluded: The ransomware attack leveraged a hacking tool, built by the US National Security Agency, that leaked online in April.

Security experts say the unprecedented ransomware attack that on Friday locked up computers across the globe including United Kingdom hospital, FedEx, train systems in Germany among other institutions in exchange for payment, could cause even more trouble as the work week begins.

Friday's attack exploited vulnerabilities in some versions of Microsoft Windows.

The cyberattack threat just became very real this weekend, with ransomware dubbed "WannaCry" affecting PCs and laptops in more than 150 countries.

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The ransomware locks down computers and has been demanding payments of $US300 ($AU406) to $US600 ($AU812) to restore access.

The spread of the WannaCry ransomware attack slowed over the weekend but the respite might only be brief, experts have said.

Smith went on to describe the situation as the equivalent of U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles getting stolen from military stockpiles.

"Overall, the USA infection rates have been slower than the rest of the world, but we may still see significant impacts in additional networks as these malware attacks morph and change", said Bossert.

Computer users should patch their machines with updates from Microsoft, especially those using older versions of operating systems such as Windows XP. The official would not identify which systems but said no federal government entities were hit.

Reports suggest that over two lakh systems globally could have been infected by the malicious software.

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Scottish targets included 11 health boards, NHS National Services and the Scottish Ambulance Service.

For a company like Microsoft to say it won't keep those systems safe unless they shell out more money, then that in itself is something of a ransom.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has urged Australians to update their Windows operating systems in the wake of a global cyber attack. People don't always install updates and patches on their computers and so this means vulnerabilities can remain open a lot longer and make things easier for hackers to get in.

All it needs is for one computer on any network to be infected, for the attack to spread to other linked computers.

"We've not seen a wave of new attacks since Friday, but what's likely to happen tomorrow is that organisations that didn't know they were affected on Friday might find that out tomorrow".

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