Ransomware: Guidance from the National Cyber Security Centre

A Bitcoin ATM at the Staten Island Ferry's Whitehall Terminal in New York

A Bitcoin ATM at the Staten Island Ferry's Whitehall Terminal in New York

It surfaced on Friday and locked users out of their computers by encrypting important files - leaving only one way out i.e.by paying $300 of ransom in Bitcoin.

Security experts have speculated that the ransomware, which works by exploiting a vulnerability in older versions of Windows, came from a cache of hacking tools allegedly stolen from the NSA by hacker group Shadow Brokers.

The Vietnam Computer Emergency Response Team (VNCERT), under the Ministry of Information and Communications, has issued warnings as well as offered protection measures to all users to guard against the ransomware and its variations, which target Microsoft Windows - an operating system that is widely used in Vietnam, especially the outdated Windows XP.

"Working through our Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) and Digital Crimes Unit, we'll also share what we learn with law enforcement agencies, governments, and other customers around the world", the software firm said.

By March, Microsoft had developed and distributed security fixes for the vulnerability. Security Update KB401258 protects vulnerable Windows and Windows Server editions, including Windows 8, Vista, XP and Windows Server 2003 and 2008.

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"You can point a lot of fingers, but I think given that this was not a zero-day vulnerability (for which no patch is available), the people hacked are to blame", said Robert Cattanach, a partner at the global law firm Dorsey & Whitney and an expert on cybersecurity and data breaches. But many corporations don't automatically update their systems, because Windows updates can screw up their legacy software programs. The longer you wait, the more you have to pay.

According to the report, "the high price highlights the quandary the world's biggest software company faces as it tries to force customers to move to newer and more secure software, while at the same time earning a profit from the army of engineers it employs on security issues".

Microsoft said the vulnerability doesn't exist within the latest version of Windows 10, but if you have an earlier version of Windows, you are encouraged to download the latest update on Microsoft's website.

The ransomware incident, which affected more than 200,000 computer systems in 150 countries, disrupted services at 61 NHS organisations, with some still struggling to restore operations. He further added that "repeatedly, exploits in the hands of governments have leaked into the public domain and caused widespread damage".

"In our research we found that a large percentage of attacks globally by WannaCry happened in India and the country was third on the total number of attacks", said Altaf Halde, Managing Director, Kaspersky Lab, South Asia.

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