Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Hi-Tech | By Ellis Neal

What Is Ransomware? How Can Internet Users Protect Themselves From It?

In the case of the Windows bug that led to the creation of WannaCrypt, Microsoft was alerted about it several months ago by the NSA, after hacking tools that the agency had developed were stolen and released on the web by another group of hackers.

If these attacks are anything to go by, then security measures in the era where Internet of Thing devices are commonplace need to be of much better standard than it's today to handle attacks when hackers shift their attention to smart home devices.

"Most of the Indian organisations are still vulnerable to the attacks since the sophistication of these cyber threats is going up and many of Indian organisations including private and public sector still use outdated operating systems which make it easy for the cyber attackers to compromise the systems".

"We have seen vulnerabilities stored by the Central Intelligence Agency show up on WikiLeaks, and now this vulnerability stolen from the NSA has affected customers around the world", wrote Smith in a blog post on Sunday.

While the ransomware disrupted telecommunications companies, hospitals and other organizations globally, Bossert emphasized during the daily White House press briefing held Monday afternoon that the "U.S. infection rate has been lower than many parts of the world" with only a "small number of affected parties in the U.S".

It's hard to blame Microsoft, Litan said, since it issued fixes and generally did what it should.

WannaCry ransomware had spread using a loophole in Microsoft windows operating systems that were initially found by the U.S. national security agency (NSA), which according to reports was using it in order to find a way to hack networks of terrorist groups, and was leaked by Shadow Brokers, which said that it had found the tools in agency's servers which the group had breached earlier.

Microsoft ended up distributing the free patch for the older versions on Friday - the day the ransomware was detected.

"If customers have automatic updates enabled or have installed the update, they are protected".

"Clearly having the vulnerability be in Microsoft software was one of the key elements", said Steve Grobman, chief technology officer of McAfee, a security company in Santa Clara, California. It leveraged an exploit - a tool created to take advantage of a security hole - leaked in a batch of hacking tools believed to belong to the NSA. Multiple backups also help. More than 200,000 victims were impacted by the ransomware attack, which encrypted user data and demanded ransom payments in of up to $1,200 made payable in bitcoin.

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

The cyber security attack at the NHS demonstrates the potential harm to the reputation of health service providers. Asked what the company is doing to prevent such exploitations, he cited "basic IT security blocking and tackling". "Software updates and security patches are pushed to us as needed so that we are using the most current approved versions of software on our computers".

According to a Reuters report, the attack installs a miner on PCs, a program that generates digital cash.

They exploited a flawless storm of factors - the Windows hole, the ability to get ransom paid in digital currency, poor security practices - but it's unclear if the payoff, at least so far, was worth the trouble. If they caught, that is.

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