Second wave of ransomware attack targeting out-of-date Windows machines under way

The'Wannacry ransomware attackMore

While governments and corporations scramble to perform damage control, here's what we know about the origins of this cyber attack, who might be to blame and what you can do to protect yourself.

In a blog post, Microsoft admonished governments around the world for keeping software vulnerabilities to themselves, instead of reporting them to the developers. "However, NSA is not entirely responsible for the event, and hence Microsoft should voluntarily accept some accountability". The split pricing marks the first time the company has treated the highest level of security as an add-on feature of its software, drawing criticism that it is has left other versions of Windows more open to attack.

Weisman: The particular ransomware used is called WannaCrypt.

According to the FT, the cost of updating older Windows versions "went from US$200 (RM865.50) per device in 2014, when regular support for XP ended, to US$400 the following year", while some clients were asked to pay heftier fees.

As a quick refresher, a hacking group known as the Shadow Brokers released a treasure trove of NSA exploits and hacking tools just a few weeks ago.

While individuals and organizations can not anticipate and combat every ransomware or other cyber-security threat, there are steps to take that decrease the likelihood of becoming the victim of an attack.

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Ahead of the attack, Microsoft released a security update that fixes the exploited flaw on now supported Windows operating systems. As operating systems age, more potential viruses and malware are created to target them. These two directives are incompatible in a global system: weaknesses exploited to attack an adversary are making the home networks equally vulnerable.

Lieu, who noted on his Web site that he is "one of only four computer science majors serving in Congress", supports changing the vulnerabilities equities process (VEP) to ensure greater transparency in how the federal government notifies software companies about bugs it identifies.

This includes whitelisting certain websites and software so only approved programs can run on a computer, or disabling administrative privileges on a company's machines so that only the IT department can download programs. Backups often are also out of date and missing critical information. The longer you wait, the more you have to pay.

"It's not rocket science", Litan said.

"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. Most of the leaked exploits are said to use zero-day vulnerabilities, previously unknown software exploits used by hackers before the software makers are aware of them.

The WannaCry ransomware has already infected hundreds of thousands of Windows computers across the world, and as the world is recovering from fiasco, security experts are also looking into what caused so many systems to be compromised so fast.

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