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Why WannaCry ransomware attack is a win-win for Microsoft

19 May 2017

"We do not know what is going to come next and whether this is the end of this particular (attack) or if there will be a variant of it coming".

Close to 150 countries have been affected by this pandemic, which is infecting older versions of the Windows operating system.

Here are some of the key players in the attack and what may - or may not - be their fault.

In March, Microsoft unveiled a patch to address the issue, but several users are yet to have their systems updated.

China is preparing to enforce a wide-reaching cyber security law that USA business groups say will threaten the operations of foreign firms in the country with strict local data storage laws and stringent surveillance requirements. But the spread of the WannaCry worm in the country appeared less aggressive than initially feared, said an official at China's cyber administrator. Brad Smith, Microsoft's top lawyer, criticized US intelligence agencies for "stockpiling" software code that can be used by hackers. The widespread attack has prompted calls - most notably from Microsoft's President and Chief Legal Officer - for the NSA to share with companies what it knows about other vulnerabilities, and raised questions about the agency's ability to safeguard its stockpile of secret exploits.

Even for systems that can be patched, applying patches to large enterprise or government systems in a timely manner is notoriously hard.

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In the face of pervasive computer insecurity, executives such as Microsoft's Smith are begging the NSA and other intelligence agencies to help protect his consumers, and his business's bottom line, by disclosing vulnerabilities it finds.

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.

Microsoft should do everything it can to move users on to newer, safer software. The ransomware attack will force hundreds of thousands of users of older versions of the Windows operating system to upgrade to recent versions such as Windows 10 Pro - which now retails on the Windows store for a sweet Rs 14,999. Reports said that approximately 90% of healthcare facilities under UK's National Health Service still use the 16-year-old Windows XP. And just as they are unlikely to pay for an upgrade to their operating systems, they may not want to - or be able to - pay for security fixes.

One of the suggestions Smith makes is to treat vulnerabilities in the same way other weapons are handled. He noted, however, the complexity that can be involved in patching a security hole.

The cyber security expert draws parallels with the data security breaches last September and October, where a malware attack forced Indian banks to replace or request users to change the security codes of 3.2 million debit cards. No company - or hospital, or university, or individual - asks to be the victim of cybercrime, but there are also things companies can do to prevent the attacks from succeeding.

"Those who are running our free antivirus software or have Windows Update enabled are protected". If you don't have backups, there is still a very small chance you can get your files back.

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"It's not rocket science", Litan said.

"It's important to note that our visibility may be limited and incomplete and the range of targets and victims is likely much, much higher", the company said in a statement.

The malicious software hit tens of thousands of systems in hospitals, schools, auto factories, shops and more, locking computers worldwide with an unprecedented global reach.

The "WannaCry" virus has infected 2,000 computers so far in the country, according to the latest figures released by officials in Tehran.

The attack followed the leak earlier this year of a batch of cyber weapons built by the United States National Security Agency (NSA).

They exploited a ideal storm of factors - the Windows hole, the ability to get ransom paid in digital currency, poor security practices - but it's unclear if the payoff, at least so far, was worth the trouble.

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