Sci-tech

Ransomware: Which businesses are most affected and why?

Ransomware: Which businesses are most affected and why?

Since the global coordinated ransomware attack on thousands of private and public sector organizations across dozens of countries on Friday, there have been no sustained new attacks of that kind. "We expect this is a small operation that is undertaking this". Once the ransomware gets into a network, it spreads quickly onto any unpatched Windows computers.

In Britain, whose health service was among the first high-profile targets of the attack Friday, some hospitals and doctors' offices were still struggling to recover. By that time, Microsoft had discovered the bug on its own and issued a security update, but many users with older versions of Windows no longer receive such updates. He says Chinese security companies have been offering their help. Quartz now reports that in 24 hours, the rate of computers online and infected has plummeted, from hundreds of thousands to simply hundreds.

"This attack provides yet another example of why the stockpiling of vulnerabilities by governments is such a problem", he said. "Most of the reported cases of payment of ransom are from overseas".

In Japan, several large manufacturers have been hit, reporter John Matthews tells NPR: "Companies including Hitachi have reported several of their systems going down, including computers at a hospital in eastern Japan".

Europe's cross-border police agency chief Rob Wainwright said the attack was "unprecedented" and they are working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to identify those behind the malware who are now unknown.

French automaker Renault and its partner, Nissan, say their plants were hit by the attack, NBC reports.

As MalwareTech noted in a blog post afterward, the ransomware was written to connect to an unregistered domain and "if the connection is not successful it ransoms the system, if it is successful the malware exits". The European Cybercrime Centre, EC3, at Europol said that the "recent [WannaCrypt] attack is at an unprecedented level and will require a complex global investigation to identify the culprits". Still, he said Microsoft should accept some responsibility. "An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the USA military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen".

That weakness was purportedly identified and stockpiled for use by the U.S. National Security Agency; it was subsequently stolen and published on the internet. One month earlier, Microsoft had released a patch targeting the vulnerability.

It comes as China prepares to enforce a wide-reaching cyber security law that USA business groups say will threaten the operations of foreign firms in China with strict local data storage laws and stringent surveillance requirements.

In this case, the domain turned out to be a "kill switch"-on any system that made contact with the URL, the virus shut itself down".

In addition to Microsoft's Security Bulletin MS17-010 that patched the vulnerability in March, the company also issued a separate patch on Friday for users of older and unsupported operating systems such as Windows XP.

Other tips: consider installing security software if you don't have it already, back up your computer to the cloud or external hard drive.

The reasons why the malware queries that URL are fairly technical, but as it turned out, he was easily able to make it work as a kill switch.


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