Published: Mon, May 15, 2017
Hi-Tech | By Ellis Neal

Log in, look out: Cyber chaos may grow at workweek's start

While now on the decline, WannaCrypt could still pose a potential threat to users who have not updated their systems to patch the vulnerability, which affects older versions of Microsoft Windows.

In the United Kingdom, 45 organizations in the National Health Service were affected, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said Saturday, and hospitals in London, North West England, and Central England urged people with non-emergency conditions to stay away as technicians tried to stop the spread of the malicious software.

Employees booting up computers at work Monday could see red as they discover they're victims of a global "ransomware" cyberattack that has created chaos in 150 countries and could wreak even greater havoc as more malicious variations appear. "Because they could have done something ages ago to get this problem fixed, and they didn't do it".

The government is not legally bound to notify at-risk companies. It locks down all the files on an infected computer.

Microsoft released a patch in March, but computers and networks that hadn't updated their systems were still at risk.

Late Friday, Representative Ted Lieu announced he is working on legislation to reform the Vulnerabilities Equities Process, which is how the government decides when to disclose vulnerabilities.

"[The] worldwide ransomware attack shows what can happen when the NSA or Central Intelligence Agency write malware instead of disclosing the vulnerability to the software manufacturer", Lieu said in a statement.

Microsoft has however given in to pressure to patch out of date operating systems repeatedly in the past, which likely reduces the pressure for companies to actually make the jump to more modern operating systems, a move which is somewhat self-defeating to everyone concerned in the end.

Apple's Mac computers were not targeted by this ransomware attack.

Some privacy advocates say that if the NSA had disclosed the vulnerability when it was first discovered, the outbreak may have been prevented.

The full scope of the attack not yet known.

Calling the attacks "painful", Phillip Misner, Principal Security Group Manager Microsoft Security Response Center, said Microsoft was worked throughout the day to protect their customers. Organizations had two months to update their Microsoft products, which would have protected their systems.

"There will be lessons to learn from what appears to be the biggest criminal cyber-attack in history", Rudd said in response to a letter from opposition Labour Party spokesman Jonathan Ashworth. "No matter how this was disclosed or when it was disclosed, some percentage of businesses would not have applied". They were forced to reschedule patients, and people were warned to stay away from emergency rooms if possible. Pyotr Lidov, a spokesman for Megafon, said Friday's attacks froze computers in company's offices across Russian Federation. Those facilities are not unique.

Organizations running older Windows software couldn't patch immediately because there was no patch available.

In a blogpost released on Friday, Microsoft said it is taking a "highly unusual step of providing a security update for all customers to protect Windows platforms that are in custom support only, including Windows XP, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2003".

The British Home Secretary said most of the NHS systems were back to normal by midday Saturday. While this particular ransomware was inadvertently stopped, hackers could modify the code and try again. Use a reputable security software to prevent attacks in the future.

His move may have saved governments and companies millions of dollars and slowed the outbreak before USA -based computers were more widely infected.

Ransomware is a particularly stubborn problem because victims are often tricked into allowing the malicious software to run on their computers, and the encryption happens too fast for security software to catch it.

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