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Microsoft could have stopped WannaCry ransomware from spreading, but it did nothing

19 May 2017

While the security experts have struggled to find the so-called "patient zero" in the attack, they have been more successful in finding the cause of the attacks and the reason why it was so successful.

They are having more luck dissecting flaws that limited its spread.

While earlier this week the company's president and chief legal officer Brad Smith had reportedly confirmed that the attack had used elements stolen from the NSA, the United States government has not given any direct comments in the matter till date.

"Some organisations just aren't aware of the risks; some don't want to risk interrupting important business processes; sometimes they are short-staffed", said Ziv Mador, vice president of security research at Trustwave's Israeli SpiderLabs unit, speaking to Reuters.

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The vulnerability in the Microsoft Windows software - exploited by WannaCrypt - crippled computers across 150 countries, with hackers demanding hundreds of dollars from the users for them to regain control over their data.

Enable the "Show file extensions" option in the Windows settings on your computer.

Computers running older versions, such as Windows XP used in Britain's NHS health system, while individually vulnerable to attack, appear incapable of spreading infections and played a far smaller role in the global attack than initially reported.

Windows XP is so old, however, that Microsoft stopped updating it several years ago. The fact that so many computers remained vulnerable two months after the release of a patch illustrates this aspect. Shadow Brokers, the group that is believed to behind the theft of the NSA hacking tools, has already threatened to put out more of these tools in the public.

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"Clearly people who run supported versions of Windows and patched quickly were not affected", Trustwave's Mador said.

However, the Financial Times report points out that Windows XP users are still expected to pay extra if they want security and it now stands at $1,000 per device.

According to a report in Financial Times on Thursday, issuing free custom support would have protected the computers from the ransomware attack. "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".

On Sunday, the USA software giant called on intelligence services to strike a better balance between their desire to keep software flaws secret - in order to conduct espionage and cyber warfare - and sharing those flaws with technology companies to better secure the internet (http://reut.rs/2qAOdLm).

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Microsoft could have stopped WannaCry ransomware from spreading, but it did nothing