Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Science | By Cecil Little

Microsoft patches Windows XP and Server 2003 due to WannaCrypt attacks

Microsoft patches Windows XP and Server 2003 due to WannaCrypt attacks

Who's being targeted for blame?

Despite discontinuing support to its older Windows versions, plenty of its customers are still running older software that may be vulnerable to exploits resulting in last week's WannaCry attacks.

Microsoft's top lawyer is laying some of the blame at the feet of the USA government. The institution had also taken the precaution of backing up its data as a security measure.

To put things into perspective, imagine Alexa telling you to pay $100 in order to get your Echo working again and bugging you to do so every few minutes; your smart fridge refusing to cool; smart TV refusing to switch to something you want to watch and so on - until you pay up.

A spokeswoman for Microsoft said it was preparing a response.

Here are some of the key players in the attack and what may - or may not - be their fault.

The WannaCry malware has been found throughout Europe, North and South America, and Asia.

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What can be done if you're a victim to a ransomware cyber attack?

"We need government to consider the damage to civilians that comes from hoarding these vulnerabilities and the use of these exploits", the company representative said.

A statement from Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith on Sunday criticised the way governments store up information about security flaws in computer systems.

"We have seen vulnerabilities stored by the CIA show up on WikiLeaks, and now this vulnerability stolen from the U.S. military intelligence organisation National Security Agency (NSA) has affected customers around the world", Smith wrote. The most severe of the vulnerabilities could allow remote code execution if an attacker sends specially crafted messages to a Microsoft Server Message Block 1.0 (SMBv1) server. Russia's Interior Ministry and companies including Spain's Telefonica, FedEx the US and French carmaker Renault all reported troubles. That program spread much more quickly than expected, soon choking and crashing machines across the internet.

Microsoft should know that there are people, small businesses, schools and hospitals that still use older version of Windows, such as XP (which came out in 2001).

Infected computers appear to largely be out-of-date devices that organizations deemed not worth the price of upgrading or, in some cases, machines involved in manufacturing or hospital functions that proved too hard to patch without possibly disrupting crucial operations, security experts said. Officials urged organizations and companies to immediately update their security software. He noted, however, the complexity that can be involved in patching a security hole.

While these are the numbers that have been revealed, cyber security experts fear that several companies might not even be reporting getting hit by the cyber attack in fear of losing face.

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Security experts are advising victims to wait before paying the ransom.

"It's not rocket science", Litan said.

Senior US security officials held another meeting in the White House situation room on Saturday, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency were working to help mitigate damage and identify the perpetrators of the attack, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. Asked what the company is doing to prevent such exploitations, he cited "basic IT security blocking and tackling".

But researcher Ethan Heilman, a doctoral student in computer science at Boston University, said some of those tumbler services are essentially fences who may try to steal the hackers' bitcoin proceeds.

"Today many of our customers around the world and the critical systems they depend on were victims of malicious "WannaCrypt" software".

The original attack lost momentum late on Friday after a security researcher took control of a server connected to the outbreak, which crippled a feature that caused the malware to rapidly spread across infected networks.

For instance, if we take the case of the hospital systems held hostage in United Kingdom, they're more likely to pay up in order to safeguard their patient's information that has been encrypted by the attacker than a teenager with photos and contacts to lose - which otherwise, in all likeliness - is also backed up on cloud.

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