Science

Microsoft blames USA stockpiled vulnerability for ransomware attack

Microsoft blames USA stockpiled vulnerability for ransomware attack

In England, 48 National Health Service (NHS) trusts reported problems at hospitals, GP surgeries or pharmacies, and 13 NHS organisations in Scotland were also affected. And that's for a simple reason: Individuals and organizations alike are fundamentally bad about keeping their computers up-to-date with security fixes.

In the U.S., FedEx Corp. reported that its Windows computers were "experiencing interference" from malware, but wouldn't say if it had been hit by ransomware. But these worm attacks became harder to pull off as computer owners and software makers shored up their defenses. The attack froze computers at hospitals across the country, with some canceling all routine procedures.

The 'WannaCry' virus took control of users' files, demanding payments from people in return for restoring them.

Once inside an organization, WannaCry uses a Windows vulnerability purportedly identified by the NSA and later leaked to the internet.

Since security professionals typically focus on building walls to block hackers from entering, security tends to be less rigorous inside the network.

That's why companies are anxious to beef up security or combat potential infections, according to Aviv Grafi, the chief technology officer of Votiro, another cybersecurity firm. But that's complicated, because hackers need to find security flaws that are unknown, widespread and relatively easy to exploit.

The attack is unique, according to policing agency Europol, because it combines ransomware with a worm function, meaning once one machine is infected, the entire internal network is scanned and other vulnerable machines are infected. But they could still linger as low-grade infections that flare up from time to time.

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Microsoft released a patch for the vulnerability being targeted by WannaCry in March.

Cyber security minister Dan Tehan confirmed an Australian organisation had been affected and told Sky News there are reports of two other instances where this software may have been used.

WannaCry is disguised as an innocuous email that compromises computers' Windows operation systems once opened, it then demands a ransom of US$300 or US$600 within three days to unlock the computer, said Wainwright.

The damage might have been temporarily contained.

New variants of the rapidly replicating worm were discovered Sunday and one did not include the so-called kill switch that allowed researchers to interrupt its spread Friday by diverting it to a dead end on the internet. Other experts found his claim credible. "You're only safe if you patch as soon as possible", he tweeted.

"Whenever there is a new patch, there is a risk in applying the patch and a risk in not applying the patch", Grobman said. First intimations of the attack came in the United Kingdom at about afternoon local time on Friday, by when the weekend had begun in India. The malware only attacks PCs running Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 operating systems. Before, Microsoft had made such fixes available only to mostly larger organizations that pay extra for extended support, yet millions of individuals and smaller businesses still had such systems. It's known organisations like the NSA develop tools to exploit computer systems in order to spy on people, including potential terrorists and their plots, of course. Programmes were being installed to fix the problem.

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