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NHS ransomware attack raises concerns about online security

19 May 2017

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".

The Telegraph reports that although it was initially expected that the widespread attack originated from phishing emails, this has since been disputed by security experts looking into the matter.

Moreover, the malware code used in the attack has its origins in a cyberweapon that was stolen last summer from the National Security Agency by a mysterious group calling itself the "Shadow Brokers".

Jonathon Nash, owner, Lake Orion-based Leet LLC, said devices that are most vulnerable are "mostly older" personal computers (PCs) running dated Microsoft operating systems, specifically Windows XP and earlier.

As CNet states: "Microsoft is criticizing government agencies for hoarding software flaws and keeping them secret, calling a massive, new ransomware attack a "wake-up call" to this problem". They need to take a different approach and adhere in cyberspace to the same rules applied to weapons in the physical world.

In the cyber age, governments are waging war via the internet - surveilling enemies and even their own citizens to keep their own country secure. Anyone who regularly deals with public services in person will probably have seen government employees struggling with outdated computer systems.

As of Sunday, the cyberattack had struck more than 200,000 computers in more than 150 countries, according to Rob Wainwright, the executive director of Europol, Europe's police agency, the Times reports.

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But nothing can be said for sure regarding the attacker's intentions, they can choose to target smartphones at any time too.

Good IT hygiene is therefore the key to cyber resilience; using supported software, applying security patches promptly, staff awareness training, a business resilience plan and remaining diligent.

Consumers can remedy this by configuring their Windows machines to automatically install the latest software updates.

Rubin also points out that on March 14 Microsoft released a security update that addressed the very vulnerability that the WannaCry ransomware is exploiting. This will make it much easier to spot potentially malicious files.

For instance, if we take the case of the hospital systems held hostage in United Kingdom, they're more likely to pay up in order to safeguard their patient's information that has been encrypted by the attacker than a teenager with photos and contacts to lose - which otherwise, in all likeliness - is also backed up on cloud.

Analysts have noticed an uptick of ransomware attacks in recent years, with most predicting an even bigger increase in 2017. The flaw will only be fixed in Google's next OS update - Android "O".

Cyber-attacks on the scale of WannaCry may remind organisations about the need to maintain their IT security.

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As the technology surrounding the Internet of Things evolves, additional security layers will have to be incorporated in order to mitigate any vulnerabilities arising out of such complex connectivity. Download the latest security and anti-malware software right here on FileHippo - all for free.

Nash said he's glad he insisted his few dozen area clients upgrade their respective operating systems from Windows XP, including the last to do so about a year ago.

Let's just put it this way. "Think about every device you may have as part of your business and home that are linked to the IoT". That's a lot of smart in a single sentence. But if you're locked out from your computer, you will have no choice but to pay the ransom to get access to that data once more. If you are unable to help your own system, then companies can not do your job for you.

On Sunday, the US 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).

"The government has to be far more forthcoming in sharing threat assessments with businesses", he says.

"This one took advantage of a vulnerability discovered with Microsoft and, in particular, older versions of the software", says Levin.

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NHS ransomware attack raises concerns about online security