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5 ways to become a smaller target for ransomware hackers
18 May 2017, 08:08 | Elizabeth Houston
Cyberattacks in 12 nations said to use leaked NSA hacking tool
The exploit, known as "EternalBlue" or "MS17-010", took advantage of a vulnerability in the Microsoft software that reportedly had been discovered and developed by the U.S. National Security Agency, which used it for surveillance activities.
"The recent attack is at an unprecedented level and will require a complex global investigation to identify the culprits", said a statement issued by Europol, Europe's police agency. The software is normally contained within an attachment to an email that masquerades as something innocent through phishing emails, malicious adverts on websites and questionable apps and programs.
The U.K.'s National Cyber Security Centre said Sunday that there have been "no sustained new attacks" of the kind that struck Friday.
Chris Wysopal of the software security firm Veracode said criminal organizations were probably behind the attack, given how quickly the malware spread.
Cybersecurity firm Avast said it tracked more than 75,000 ransomware attacks in 99 countries on Friday.
Organizations around the world spent the weekend trying to recover after being hit by a virus that seeks to seize control of computers until victims pay a ransom.
Russia's Interior Ministry, with oversight of the police forces, said about "1,000 computers were infected", which it described as less than 1 percent of the total, according to its website.
Spanish firm Telefonica, French automaker Renault, the US -based delivery service FedEx and the German railway Deutsche Bahn were among those affected.
"We could potentially see copycats mimic the delivery or exploit method they used", he said.
Europol's Wainwright underscored the point Sunday. It locks the user out in order to prevent them from accessing any saved files until they pay a certain amount of money.
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Microsoft has called the cyber-attack that crippled businesses and services across 150 countries a "wake-up call", and has blamed government agencies for storing details of software vulnerabilities like stockpiled weapons. Nevertheless the researcher is urging computer users to still immediately patch their systems and update their Windows operating systems because the attackers are likely to introduce new variants of the ransomware code.
The ransomware attack exploits a vulnerability in older Windows OS, including Windows 8, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. Although it won't do any good for machines that have already been hit.
They proposed a plan to improve cyber security that included a replacement of outdated systems "as a matter of urgency", calling its continued use "one of the most pressing issues facing IT infrastructure" in the NHS.
"We've seen the rise of ransomware becoming the principal threat, I think, but this is something we haven't seen before - the global reach is unprecedented", Wainwright said. It is not a small attack on entire world's network.
The software tools to create the attack were revealed in April among a trove of NSA spy tools that were either leaked or stolen.
And WannaCry has already caused massive disruption around the globe.
Most of the photos shared online are actually public displays of which the connected machines have been compromised, but perhaps the most dramatic example of unhatched machines was in the UK's National Health Service which runs their hospitals.
For instance, the Conficker virus, which first appeared in 2008 and can disable system security features, also spreads through vulnerabilities in internal file sharing.
In China, the internet security company Qihoo360 issued a "red alert" saying that a large number of colleges and students in the country had been affected by the ransomware, which is also referred to as WannaCrypt.
He said tech companies, customers and the government need to "work together" to protect against attacks. What started as a curious attempt to investigate the ransomware's origin accidentally triggered part of the malicious code that told it to stop spreading. Two big telecom companies, Telefónica of Spain and Megafon of Russian Federation, were also hit, as was Japanese carmaker Nissan in the United Kingdom.
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