WannaCry: Largest Cyber Attack in History,How to Prevent ?

A ransomware cyber-attack that may have originated from the theft of “cyber weapons” linked to the US government has hobbled hospitals in England and spread to countries across the world.

"Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts a user’s data, then demands payment in exchange for unlocking the data. This attack was caused by a bug called “WanaCrypt0r 2.0” or WannaCry, that exploits a vulnerability in Windows. Microsoft released a patch (a software update that fixes the problem) for the flaw in March, but computers that have not installed the security update remain vulnerable."

Security researchers with Kaspersky Lab have recorded more than 45,000 attacks in 99 countries, including the UK, Russia, Ukraine, India, China, Italy, and Egypt. In Spain, major companies including telecommunications firm Telefónica were infected.
Cyber extortionists tricked victims into opening malicious malware attachments to spam emails that appeared to contain invoices, job offers, security warnings and other legitimate files.
The ransomware encrypted data on the computers, demanding payments of $300 to $600 to restore access. Security researchers said they observed some victims paying via the digital currency bitcoin, though they did not know what percent had given in to the extortionists.
Researchers with security software maker Avast said they had observed 57,000 infections in 99 countries with Russia, Ukraine and Taiwan the top targets.
The most disruptive attacks were reported in Britain, where hospitals and clinics were forced to turn away patients after losing access to computers.
International shipper FedEx Corp said some of its Windows computers were also infected. “We are implementing remediation steps as quickly as possible,” it said in a statement.
Still, only a small number of U.S.-headquartered organizations were hit because the hackers appear to have begun the campaign by targeting organizations in Europe, said Vikram Thakur, research manager with security software maker Symantec.
By the time they turned their attention to the United States, spam filters had identified the new threat and flagged the ransomware-laden emails as malicious, Thakur said.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said late on Friday that it was aware of reports of the ransomware, was sharing information with domestic and foreign partners and was ready to lend technical support.
Telecommunications company Telefonica was among many targets in Spain, though it said the attack was limited to some computers on an internal network and had not affected clients or services. Portugal Telecom and Telefonica Argentina both said they were also targeted.
Private security firms identified the ransomware as a new variant of “WannaCry” that had the ability to automatically spread across large networks by exploiting a known bug in Microsoft’s Windows operating system.
complete map of WannaCrypt0r, the unprecedented ransomware that went worldwide in hours.


“Once it gets in and starts moving across the infrastructure, there is no way to stop it,” said Adam Meyers, a researcher with cyber security firm CrowdStrike.

The hackers, who have not come forward to claim responsibility or otherwise been identified, likely made it a “worm,” or self spreading malware, by exploiting a piece of NSA code known as “Eternal Blue” that was released last month by a group known as the Shadow Brokers, researchers with several private cyber security firms said.
“This is one of the largest global ransomware attacks the cyber community has ever seen,” said Rich Barger, director of threat research with Splunk, one of the firms that linked WannaCry to the NSA.
The Shadow Brokers released Eternal Blue as part of a trove of hacking tools that they said belonged to the U.S. spy agency.
Microsoft on Friday said it was pushing out automatic Windows updates to defend clients from WannaCry. It issued a patch on March 14 to protect them from Eternal Blue.

What’s sad is that this was all largely preventable, had more Windows users simply installed the security patch Microsoft released for it two months ago. (Unless you’re one of the 8.45 percent of users still running Windows XP, which hasn’t been supported for three years.)

“Today our engineers added detection and protection against new malicious software known as Ransom:Win32.WannaCrypt,” Microsoft said in a statement. It said the company was working with its customers to provide additional assistance.

What can you do to prevent ransomware infection ?

According to Microsoft's Malware Protection Center, here are the steps you should take to protect yourself against ransomware:
  • Install and use an up-to-date antivirus solution (such as Microsoft Security Essentials)
  • Make sure your software is up-to-date
  • Avoid clicking on links or opening attachments or emails from people you don't know or companies you don't do business with
  • Ensure you have smart screen (in Internet Explorer) turned on, which helps identify reported phishing and malware websites and helps you make informed decisions about downloads
  • Have a pop-up blocker running on your web browser
  • Regularly backup your important files
If you think you might be vulnerable to WannaCry, or you don’t remember installing any updates over the past month, your first step is to address that issue immediately. The importance of downloading and installing security updates (as opposed to just clicking “remind me tomorrow” for several weeks in a row) cannot be overstated.

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