Microsoft blames U.S. stockpiled vulnerability for ransomware attack

The most disruptive attacks were reported in the United Kingdom, where hospitals and clinics were forced to turn away patients after losing access to computers.

"Mostly they hack directly, but they hack other countries first and transfer (the data), so various other countries are found when we trace back, but a specific IP address located in Pyongyang can be found in the end", said Choi Sang-myung, a senior director of the cyber security firm Hauri Inc.in Seoul. Victims ranged from British hospitals that had to send scheduled surgery patients home to electronic billboards in Thailand and the Russian Foreign Ministry.

A cyber-attack that hit 150 countries since Friday should be treated by governments around the world as a "wake-up call", Microsoft has said.

Bkav recommends that all computer users immediately install updates and security patches and hotfixes via Windows Update.

The so-called WannaCry cyberattack has affected hundreds of thousands of computers by exploiting vulnerabilities in Microsoft's Windows XP software, creating havoc around the world.

Sixty percent of the ransomware attack attempts by the malicious WannaCry malware were targeted at enterprises, while the rest were against individual customers.

On affected computers, the WannaCry software encrypts files and displays a ransom message demanding $300 in bitcoin.

Brad Smith likened the WannaCry attack to the USA military having its Tomahawk missiles stolen.

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Microsoft should know that there are people, small businesses, schools and hospitals that still use older version of Windows, such as XP (which came out in 2001).

EternalBlue exploits a vulnerability in Microsoft operating systems. But some sort of agreement by governments to not stockpile vulnerabilities that can be exploited by bad guys is needed. "We need governments to consider the damage to civilians that comes from hoarding these vulnerabilities and the use of these exploits", Smith noted in his blog post.

The U.K. government's cyber office put it succinctly: "T$3 he 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".

Microsoft added that "this attack provides yet another example of why the stockpiling of vulnerabilities by governments is such a problem".

The attack, Smith says, "represents a completely unintended but disconcerting link between the two most serious forms of cybersecurity threats in the world today - nation-state action and organized criminal action". "This is an emerging pattern in 2017", Smith wrote.

Mr Smith argued that in cyberspace, governments should apply rules such as those regarding weapons in the physical world.

Microsoft had issued a Windows 10 patch for SMB in March, so anyone who had deployed it in the interim avoided WannaCry's propagation.

"The operating systems on our computers and software downloads are managed centrally so that regular users can not download executable files from the internet without administrative rights", he said in an email.

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