Security experts find clues to ransomware worm's lingering risks

The cyberattack has hit more than 300,000 computers, White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert said at Monday's midday White House briefing.

WannaCry ransomware attack has brought more bad news for Microsoft, with a new report in the Financial Times saying that the Redmont-based software giant held back the security patch update, which could have slowed down the attack. Its victims have included Britain's National Health Service, universities in China and Germany's train system.

Usually, the targets of ransomware attacks prefer not to disclose they've been hit and usually the payout is much larger than the the modest few hundred dollars demanded by WannaCry.

Ransomware attacks can potentially be more damaging than classic breaches which result in stolen bank accounts or credit card information-many such losses are recoverable soon after the breach has been discovered, but lost business plans and product designs, which are a company's crown jewels, can be irreplaceable.

The ransomware took advantage of a flaw in Microsoft's Windows operating system. Ransom messages appeared in 28 different languages to those who were infected.

In March, we released a security update which addresses the vulnerability that these attacks are exploiting.

"Users must update the patch MS-17010 provided by Microsoft using the source link http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/security/ms17-010.aspx".

"Marcus, with the program he runs at Kryptos Logic, not only saved the United States but also prevented further damage to the rest of the world", Neino said, according to the Telegraph. However, for computer users with WindowsXP, there was no patch because Microsoft had ended support for that OS in 2014.

Microsoft, whose Windows operating system was attacked with the WannaCry exploit, has strongly criticized stockpiling.

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The massive scale of this attack shines a light on just how many organizations were using outdated, unpatched systems.

Last year, there were still reportedly over 100 million XPs still in use, with millions still connected to the internet. A researcher from Google posted on Twitter that an early version of WannaCrypt from February shared some of the same programming code as malicious software used by the Lazarus Group, the alleged North Korean government hackers behind the destructive attack on Sony Corporation in 2014 and the theft of $81 million from a Bangladesh central bank account at the New York Fed previous year.

On Wednesday security firms Bitdefender and Proofpoint found hackers using the same exploit to spread cryptocurrency-mining malware called Adylkuzz. Asking people to not "pay a ransomware ransom", police said doing so will fuel the ransomware economy.

As of Saturday, a total of $26,000 had been paid by various entities toward the ransom.

There is no single government policy that can mitigate the threat of ransomware. It also includes making sure users maintain good cyber hygiene, such as refraining from opening suspicious emails and downloading anything suspicious. The ransomware has been a costly nuisance.

This year in January another ransomware by the name of Lazarus had attacked Indian companies. The U.S. has had some malware infections from WannaCry, but the effect has been limited. (Whether or not you see this as a good and necessary thing likely has a lot to do with your opinion of whether the NSA too often prioritizes its ability to hurt adversaries over the privacy and safety of USA citizens or over the privacy and safety of people in general).

Educating users on how to identify possible payloads and avoid them would seem to be the best approach against ransomware-after all, prevention is better than cure.

Riley Walters is a Research Assistant in The Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy at The Heritage Foundation.

Editor's Note: The following column by Ron Kubera, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Lucas Systems, is part of Modern's Other Voices column.

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