June 28, 2017

Microsoft blames U.S. government for 'stockpiling' vulnerabilities

23 May 2017, 12:19 | Archie Newman

MOD AT RISK Nuclear sub HMS Vengeance

HMS Vengeance

On Friday, May 12, 2017, a damaging ransomware attack swept across more than one hundred countries and infected tens of thousands of computers. No federal systems were affected.

For all the worldwide chaos they have caused, the ransomware attack's perpetrators have reportedly made little more than less than $70,000, according to Tom Bossert, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism.

Security experts at Symantec, which in the past has accurately identified attacks mounted by the United States, Israel and North Korea, found early versions of the ransomware, called WannaCry, that used tools that were also deployed against Sony Pictures Entertainment, the Bangladesh central bank previous year and Polish banks in February.

The ACLU, meanwhile, urged Congress to pass a law requiring the government to disclose vulnerabilities to companies "in a timely manner", so that they can patch them as soon as possible.

"Our research so far puts into question the ability of WannaCry's creators to decrypt your files at all", Check Point Software said in a blog post Sunday.

Once the computer's data has been encrypted, or locked down, a message would appear saying that the users' files are no longer accessible.

Less than 300 payments worth around $83,000 had been paid into WannaCry blackmail accounts by Thursday (1800 GMT), six days after the attack began and one day before the ransomware threatens to start locking up victim computers forever. "In case the client is using pirated or old software which is making them victim to cyber crime, no money will be paid", said a senior executive of a private insurance company who also said there is a spike in queries of cyber insurance.

Naturally, it is hard to ascertain the situation for many people because it is not just individual systems that we are talking about, but several computers that are hooked onto a single network in a company.

HMS Vengeance

According to the cyber security experts, many corporate, institutions and individual have been hit by the ransomware.

Yet, Bossert claimed in Monday's press briefing that if organizations follow the mitigation advice published by the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Microsoft-and have patched their systems-they will be "protected against all these variants". Here, we explain the nature of the WannaCry ransomware and how you can fulfill your part to make sure you are secure from it. "This includes new security functionality across our entire software platform, including constant updates to our Advanced Threat Protection service to detect and disrupt new cyberattacks".

However, proof positive of just how bad the spread of "WannaCry" has been, the company did something it hasn't done in years: released a security patch for Windows XP. "There are actually legitimate reasons to wait to patch your systems". Many ATM's operated normally although there were fears of the system being affected. "It came out two months before the very first iPod". The attack was not coordinated, but it spread quickly due to security vulnerability in the Microsoft Windows Operating System.

The world is gripped by the ransomware "Wannacry" toppling banking systems and cyber security in over 150 countries.

Banks in Karnataka remained unaffected by the ransomware because they adhered to the advisory issued by the Union ministry of electronics and information technology, and by installing the latest patch. The U.S. government still uses tech five decades old; it spends more than $60 billion on legacy technology, and just $20 billion on modernization efforts.

"The fundamental issue with healthcare data is that it has enduring value to the cybercriminal", he says. "Now, a medical diagnosis or an X-ray, for instance, can not be cancelled so therefore it has enduring value".

For a full description of ransomware and how it can be stopped, see here.

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