Microsoft exec slams NSA over massive global cyberattack

Vladimir Putins government have come under attack

"The numbers are still going up", he said.

It hit 200,000 victims across the world since Friday and is seen as an "escalating threat", said Rob Wainwright, the head of Europol, Europe's policing agency. The ransom demand which was $300 is now said to have increased up to $600 in Bitcoin.

The effects were felt around the globe, disrupting computers that run factories, banks, government agencies and transport systems in nations as diverse as Russia, Ukraine, Brazil, Spain, India and the U.S. Britain's National Health Service was hit hard, while Russia's Interior Ministry and companies including Spain's Telefonica, FedEx Corp.in the U.S. and French carmaker Renault all reported disruptions.

Cybersecurity experts said the spread of the virus dubbed WannaCry - "ransomware" which locked up more than 100,000 computers - had slowed, but the respite might only be brief.

Nonetheless, the experts say such widespread attacks are tough to pull off. It combined a known and highly risky security hole in Microsoft Windows, tardy users who didn't apply Microsoft's March software fix, and a software design that allowed the malware to spread quickly once inside university, business and government networks.

What's worse, those responsible were able to borrow a weaponized "exploit", apparently created by the U.S. National Security Agency, to launch the attack in the first place.

Meanwhile, new versions of the ransomware have reportedly surfaced, including one without the kill switch exploited by a 22-year-old computer security researcher to shut the attack down.

Both Hickey and Horowitz said they haven't known about any situations where casualties effectively liberated their PCs by paying the payment.

Defending Yourself - and Your Computer - From WannaCry Ransomware
The ransomware spreads like a worm virus, from machine to machine, first by luring a user into clicking a link or an attachment. As a result of being unable to easily update and reboot their systems, hospitals may put off updating vulnerable software.

The security firm Kaspersky Lab, based in Russian Federation, noted that Microsoft had repaired the software problem that allows backdoor entry into its operating systems weeks before hackers published the exploit linked to the NSA, but also said: "Unfortunately it appears that many users have not yet installed the patch". The security researcher - who uses the Twitter handle @MalwareTechBlog - registered that domain to collect the ransomware traffic for analysis and to track infections. "Unfortunately, until this is taken more seriously, this massive wide-scale type of attack is only the beginning". It issued a patch on March 14 to protect them from Eternal Blue.

"My answer is, never pay the ransom", Lawrence Abrams, a New York-based blogger who runs BleepingComputer.com told The Associated Press.

It asked users not to open attachments in unsolicited e-mails, even if they come from people in your contact list, and never click on a URL contained in an unsolicited e-mail, even if the link seems benign.

"It is important to understand that the way these attacks work means that compromises of machines and networks that have already occurred may not yet have been detected, and that existing infections from the malware can spread within networks", said the U.K.'s National Cyber Security Centre in a statement Sunday.

As per some analysts, WannaCry ransomware has the potential to scoop out $1 billion in bitcoins from their victims. He says Chinese security companies have been offering their help. After he pointed the domain to a sinkhole or a server which collects and analyses malware, he discovered that the domain is actually a kill switch, which can be used to control the ransomware.

His action couldn't help those already infected, however. Intelligence officials wouldn't comment on the authenticity of the claims. Unfortunately, the equipment fell into the wrong hands, causing serious trouble several companies to suffer from information encryption unless they pay out. But some experts have argued this attack could have been vastly mitigated if the NSA told Microsoft sooner.

Alex Abdo, a staff attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, said Microsoft and other software companies have strategically settled lawsuits that could lead to court rulings weakening their licensing agreements. "But there's clearly some culpability on the part of the USA intelligence services".

The problem is that once those vulnerabilities become public, they can be used by others.

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