Published: Sun, May 21, 2017
Tech | By Dwayne Harmon

Ransomware cyber-attack a wake-up call

Ransomware cyber-attack a wake-up call

The spread of the virus dubbed WannaCry had slowed but cybersecurity experts have warned that new versions of the worm are likely, even as the extent of the damage caused by Friday's attack remains unclear. The ransomware was created to repeatedly contact an unregistered domain in its code.

It is the largest ransomware attack observed in history.

And more local computer systems are expected to be hit. Copycat attacks could 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.

"The affected company doesn't fall under critical infrastructure, it's not a medical or health service and it is not a big company", he said. All sectors of the economy were vulnerable and organizations could take lessons from the banking industry, which appeared to have largely escaped the global attack.

The Windows software was installed on the submarines "to save money rather than meet the cost of a tailored system", says The Guardian, but nuclear subs "have been designed for nearly complete isolation when at sea", making them nearly impossible to hack.

Special adviser to the Prime Minister on Cyber Security Alastair MacGibbon said the first thing Australians should do when they get in to work on Monday is update their Microsoft software.

Computers and networks that hadn't recently updated their systems are still at risk because the ransomware is lurking.

More than 200,000 computers have been affected so far.

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

"At the moment we are in the face of an escalating threat, the numbers are going up". He added that ransomware attacks were normally criminal rather than political in nature.

Sky News reported Sunday that seven organisations which manage hospital care within England's National Health Service are continuing to divert patients from the emergency room, a figure which an NHS spokeswoman was not able to confirm to AFP.

"Of course there are amounts that are being demanded, in this case relatively small amounts - US$300 (Dh1,102) rising to $600 if you don't pay within three days", he said.

There are also fears that copycat variants of the malicious software have begun to spread. Spain's national cryptology centre had earlier announced that the "massive ransomware attack" targeted the Windows operating system by "encrypting all its archives and all the connected units inside the network, and infecting the rest of the Windows systems inside the network".

Russia's Interior Ministry acknowledged a ransomware attack on its computers.

French carmaker Renault was forced to stop production at sites in France, Slovenia and Romania, while FedEx said it was "implementing remediation steps as quickly as possible".

A mysterious, Russian-linked group called TheShadowBrokers last month claimed to have stolen the hacking tool, which may then have been acquired by another cyber gang and unleashed in Friday's onslaught.

The Europol chief said it was working with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation to find those responsible, and that more than one person was likely to be involved.

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