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Global computer virus likely to wreak more havoc

19 May 2017

You've heard the phrase "the road to Hell is paved with good intentions", right?

The Windows vulnerability in question was purportedly identified by the NSA for its own intelligence-gathering purposes. The attackers then demand a ransom between US$300 and US$600 worth of bitcoins, threatening to delete files if payment isn't received within a week.

Kaspersky Lab said its security software has "detected and successfully blocked a large number of ransomware attacks around the world", including "more than 45,000 attacks of the WannaCry ransomware in 74 countries around the world, mostly in Russian Federation".

The most disruptive attacks were reported in the United Kingdom, where hospitals and clinics were forced to turn away patients after losing access to computers.The 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.

Aruna Sundararajan, Union electronics and information technology, told Reuters the government was constantly monitoring the situation and that a few stand-alone computers of a police department were "back in action" after being infected over the weekend. Governments and companies alike must invest the time and money to keep us safe.

Barts Health, which runs five hospitals in London, said Sunday it was still experiencing disruption to its computer systems and it asked for the public to use other NHS services wherever possible. And that's not it, you should be very careful from who you get the emails from.

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The same reason you get telemarketing calls and junk email: It's effective.

At a time when hyper-targeted phishing attacks and sophisticated government-sponsored assaults represent the cutting edge of the battle over cyber security, the spread of the WannaCry ransomware looks like a blast from the past. Recovery from backups is one of them. So far, he said, not many people have paid the ransom demanded by the malware. That means that if you downloaded the file and haven't run it you can delete it and carry on with your day.

So should I pay these hackers to make the problem go away?

Others have made a similar point: "While GCHQ can not be blamed for the NHS's reliance on out of date software, the decision that the NSA and GCHQ have made in keeping this vulnerability secret, rather than trying to get it fixed, means they have a significant share of the blame for the current NHS ransom", said the Open Rights Group.

The hack appears to have originally been discovered by the NSA, which allegedly kept it on file as a potential tool to use for surveillance or other issues.

The software giant's statement is the most authoritative confirmation so far of the connection between the Friday attack and attack code that was disclosed in April by an anonymous group called Shadow Brokers, which said it had obtained it from the NSA.

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Does WannaCry affect my Mac, iPhone or Android?

Organizations and networks worldwide have since Friday been dealing with the fallout of massive ransomware attack that exploited a hole in PCs running Microsoft Windows that haven't been updated.

Microsoft said it had taken the "highly unusual step" of releasing a patch for computers running older operating systems including Windows XP, Windows 8 and Windows Server 2003.

Companies needed to make sure they have updated their systems and "patched where they should" before staff arrived for work on Monday morning, the European Union law enforcement agency head said. They, too, should regularly update with software patches as they're issued.

Once installed, WannaCry encrypts user files. If you have a machine online (or even on a LAN), it needs to be updated.

Larson said China is particularly vulnerable to malicious code because the majority of the country's computer users are reliant on pirated software.

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