Microsoft Blasts the CIA and NSA for "Stockpiling" Software Vulnerabilities

Victims ranged from the mundane - a Norwegian soccer club lost its ticket-selling website - to the essential: The British National Health System lost use of digital services throughout many of its hospitals, slowing routine procedures like processing payments and imperiling patients by locking out access to records. "We haven't seen anything like this since Conficker in 2008", Amit Nath, Head of Asia Pacific-Corporate Business at cyber security firm F-Secure Corporation, told IANS. "Even if a fresh attack does not materialize on Monday, we should expect it soon afterwards", she said.

A unsafe new ransomware called "WannaCry" made waves recently, affecting roughly 200,000 systems in more than 150 countries worldwide.

Russia's Interior Ministry and companies including Spain's Telefonica, FedEx Corp in the U.S. and French carmaker Renault all reported troubles.

Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith answers questions at a shareholders meeting in 2014.

Security experts say many organisations don't install security upgrades because they're anxious about triggering bugs, or they can't afford the downtime.

Prime Minister Theresa May said "warnings were given to hospital trusts" about the Microsoft vulnerability exploited by the attackers. He compared it to disclosure of hacking tools in March by the WikiLeaks organization, which said it had obtained them from the Central Intelligence Agency. "It is so visible and so global". There are fears of further "ransomware" attacks as people return to work on Monday.

When you're using public WiFi networks, make sure you tell your system that you're on a public network (many will ask if it's a public or home computer.) That tells your operating system that it's functioning in a potentially threat-filled environment and it will close off some of its more vulnerable software ports to the outside.

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"There's a lot of older Windows products out there that are "end of life" and nobody's bothered to take them out of service", said Cynthia Larose, a cybersecurity expert at the law firm of Mintz Levin.

Chinese state media said 29,372 institutions there had been infected along with hundreds of thousands of devices. "People may have updated their security systems over the last hours", Europol said.

But he also blamed the governments. That prompted the company to issue another patch on Friday for older and unsupported operating systems such as Windows XP, allowing users to secure their systems without requiring an upgrade to the latest operating software.

The so-called WannaCry ransomware locks access to user files and demands money - in the form of the virtual currency Bitcoin - in order to decrypt them. Smith said that Microsoft has been "working around the clock since Friday to help all our customers who have been affected by this incident", and we'll let you know if we learn anything new about the cyberattack.

A United Kingdom -based security researcher who goes by the name MalwareTech put a stop to the spread of WannaCry on Friday by registering a domain name he discovered in the ransomware's code.

"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. "We haven't fully dodged this bullet at all until we're patched against the vulnerability itself".

The president of Microsoft laid some of the blame at the feet of the USA government. Cybersecurity experts say the unknown hackers who launched the attacks used a vulnerability that was exposed in NSA documents leaked online.

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