Published: Sat, May 13, 2017
Hi-Tech | By Ellis Neal

Ireland not affected in 'biggest ever' cyber attack


The scale of the attacks have been described as "unprecedented" by cyber-security experts.

Hacking group Shadow Brokers reportedly released the malware last month, after claiming to have discovered the flaw from the US National Security Agency.

Hospitals and doctors" surgeries across England were forced to turn away patients and cancel appointments on Friday after a nationwide "ransomware' cyber attack which crippled some computer systems in the state-run health service.

Global shipper FedEx, Spanish telecommunications firm Telefonica and Portugal Telecom were affected, while Russian Federation appeared to be the hardest hit.

Ransomware is a type of malicious software that infects a computer and restricts users' access to it until a ransom is paid to unlock it. Individuals and organisations are discouraged from paying the ransom, as this does not guarantee access will be restored, USCERT said.

It said the majority of the attacks targeted Russia, Ukraine and Taiwan.

Authorities said they were communicating with more than 100 energy, transportation, telecommunications and financial services providers about the attack.

The security holes it exploits were disclosed several weeks ago by TheShadowBrokers, a group that has published what it says are hacking tools used by the NSA as part of its intelligence-gathering. It issued a patch on March 14 to protect them from Eternal Blue.

"Today our engineers added detection and protection against new malicious software known as Ransom: Win32.WannaCrypt".

The ransomware locks down all the files on an infected computer and asks the computer's administrator to pay in order to regain control of them.

While Spain's Computer Emergency Response Team CCN-CERT, posted an alert on its site about the attack affecting several Spanish organizations, the National Health Service (NHS) in Britain also issued an alert and confirmed infections at 16 medical institutions.

On Friday, Russia's interior and emergencies ministries, as well as the country's biggest bank, Sberbank, said they were targeted.

"Now that the cyber criminals know they can hit the big guys, they will start to target big corporations".

Russia's Interior Ministry released a statement acknowledging a ransomware attack on its computers, adding that less than 1% of computers were affected, and that the virus is now "localized".

However, working alongside Darien Huss from security firm Proofpoint, a British cyber security researcher managed to find a "kill switch" built into the software on Friday, stemming the flow of attacks.

"Seeing a large telco like Telefonica get hit is going to get everybody anxious".

Ms Rudd said Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had told health trusts to upgrade their software and majority had.

"It is going to spread far and wide within the internal systems of organizations - this is turning into the biggest cybersecurity incident I've ever seen", UK-based security architect Kevin Beaumont said.

He said many NHS hospitals in Britain use Windows XP software, introduced in 2001, and as government funding for the health service has been squeezed, "IT budgets are often one of the first ones to be reduced".

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