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USA should take some of blame for massive cyberattack, Chinese media says

19 May 2017, 02:46 | Bernard Bryant

The attack started Friday and affected thousands of computers, hitting more than 150 countries by Monday. The hackers are now in control of your computer and will block access to it until you pay them a ransom.

By SYLVIA HUI, ALLEN G.

Global investigators hunted Saturday for those behind an unprecedented cyber-attack that affected systems in dozens of countries, including at banks, hospitals and government agencies, as security experts sought to contain the fallout.

The state-run People's Daily compared the cyber attack to the terrorist hacking depicted in the US film "Die Hard 4", warning that China's role in global trade and internet connectivity opened it to increased risks from overseas. Other reports of cyber attacks developed using information in the Shadow Brokers dump surfaced over the past few weeks. India needs to look at some more holistic perspective with how to deal with cyber security.

However, it was too early to tell whether North Korea was involved in the attacks.

After two security researchers greatly slowed down that attack, which effectively held people's documents, photos and other digital files hostage, hard-hit organizations such as the U.K.'s National Health Service seem to be bouncing back. Two big telecom companies, Telefónica of Spain and Megafon of Russian Federation, were also hit. Universities in Greece and Italy also were hit.

On Saturday, cybersecurity officials in Britain have applauded a young researcher for helping halt the global ransomware cyberattack.

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Nonetheless, the experts say such widespread attacks are tough to pull off. Microsoft swiftly announced that it had already issued software "patches" to fix those holes, but many users haven't yet installed updates or still use older versions of Windows.

Chris Wysopal, of the software security firm Veracode, said criminal organisations were probably behind the attack, given how quickly the malware spread.

Ransomware installs on a victim's computer when a user clicks on a malicious link in a "phishing" email (or an email created to trick the user into thinking that it is from a known or legitimate source). The vulnerability, which is being used to carry out the attack, affects computers running Microsoft's Windows OS, though the company had issued a patch to fix this on March 14.

It also caused a public statement from Microsoft attacking the USA government for stockpiling software exploits, arguing: "An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the U.S. military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen". As cybercriminals become more sophisticated, there is simply no way for customers to protect themselves against threats unless they update their systems. But many organizations had not updated their systems at the time of the attack. Instead of betting everything on protection and defence, we should prepare for a scenario when the operating system is unavailable or critical data is not accessible from a computer. The post did not identify other products by name.

A network engineer of a secondary source software firm, who provides security solutions, said, "We were asked to work on weekend and monitor the servers". The server operates as a "sinkhole" to collect information about malware - and in Friday's case kept the malware from escaping. Short of paying, options for these individuals and companies are usually limited to recovering data files from a backup, if available, or living without them.

"And a lot of times the ransom, they'll tell you to send it in by Bitcoin".

British cybersecurity expert Graham Cluley doesn't want to blame the NSA for the attack. "They don't have a vaccine for this stuff", he said. "But there's clearly some culpability on the part of the USA intelligence services".



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