Gov't issues warnings against WannaCry ransomware

While banks and critical organisations have tightened their security systems following the global WannaCrypt ransomeware assault of the weekend, there is a blame game brewing in the U.S. over who was responsible. They used a stolen tool reportedly developed by the National Security Agency to exploit a hidden weakness in the Windows operating system and spread their "ransomware" to computers far and wide.

But researchers at security firm Proofpoint said that a related attack that exploits the same vulnerability that powered WannaCry has turned more than 200,000 computers into digital currency miners.

Although the argument that it's the NSA's fault has merit, Microsoft should shoulder blame too, according to Alex Abdo, staff lawyer at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

In addition to the UK's NHS, the WannaCrypt ransomware also hit Spain's Telefonica telco and other companies in Russia, Spain, Taiwan and Ukraine, according to the security firm Malwarebytes.

For these reasons, it is not likely to face legal issues concerning the flaws in Windows being taken advantage of by the ransomware. Over the weekend the company took the unusual step of releasing a similar patch for Windows XP, which the company announced in 2014 it would no longer support. Those include a known and highly risky security hole in Microsoft Windows, tardy users who didn't apply Microsoft's March software fix, and malware created to spread quickly once inside university, business and government networks.

In other words, if people had simply stayed on top of security updates, their machines would not have been infected. When this happens, you can't get to the data unless you pay a ransom. However, many targeted organizations had not yet implemented the security update or were using Windows XP, a legacy system for which Microsoft no longer issues security patches. (These are the most important patches that the company recommends users install immediately.) That could saddle the company with the XP albatross for many years past when it hoped to be free from having to maintain the software. However, the outdated software of ATMs was least affected. "That's going to become a more common practice".

Avoid clicking on suspicious emails: Many ransomware attacks are initiated through an infected link in or attached to an email.

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On Monday, private-sector sleuths found a clue about who might be responsible for the WannaCry attack.

Computer security experts said the current attack could have been much worse but for the quick action of a young researcher in Britain who discovered a vulnerability in the ransomware itself, known as WanaCryptor 2.0.

On its own, the shared code is little more than an intriguing lead.

People running older software will often claim that they're clinging to it because they can't afford to buy newer computers, or because now supported operating systems conflict with another piece of software that they're using.

The remaining challenge is that Windows has a long tail - old versions stay on computers because it would either be too costly or too hard to upgrade them.

In the informative article, the company discusses the May 12, WannaCry ransomware attack and a recent ransomware warning from the 2017 Internet Security Threat Report by Symantec.

Microsoft and its non-protected users must feel chagrined. "To keep the world safe, these things have to be done". Under the Vulnerabilities Equities Process established during former President Barack Obama's administration in 2013, the NSA, CIA and other intelligence agencies are supposed to disclose security bugs rather than trying to exploit them.

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