But the massive digital assault they launched late last week could end up costing the global economy billions.
The attack that authorities say swept 150 countries this weekend is part of a growing problem of "ransomware" scams, in which people find themselves locked out of their files and presented with a demand to pay hackers to restore their access. According to the law enforcement group Europol, there are at least 200,000 victims. WannaCry shut down ATM machines across China and crippled hospitals in Great Britain.
Microsoft distributed the patch two months ago, which could have forestalled much of the attack, but in many organizations it was likely lost among the blizzard of updates and patches that large corporations and governments strain to manage.
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Microsoft, Apple Inc., and others have pushed back against efforts by those agencies to seek technical backdoors in their products to monitor targets, because the tech companies fear the perception of complicity with the US government could alienate customers in the USA and overseas. The WannaCry virus that attacked about 1,00,000 users has been slowed down on Sunday while it is predicted that it might burst out anytime on Monday as many users log into their systems. Some cybersecurity experts are wondering if the vulnerability exposed with the leaked US government documents could be part of the attraction.
This cyber attack infects a victim's computer and encrypts all the data files.
Those who didn't pay heed to the Windows XP patch are the ones who have fallen prey to the world's biggest ransomware attack.
Interior Ministry: The Russian Interior Ministry acknowledged a ransomware attack on its computers, adding that less than 1% of computers were affected. For example, a blog posting from Kaspersky Lab, a Russian cybersecurity firm with its United States headquarters in Woburn, said that it had not tracked down any such e-mails.
The malware came to light on May 12, spreading quickly from computer to computer.
"This is an emerging pattern in 2017", Smith, who is also chief legal officer, says in a Microsoft company blog post. Instead of warning Microsoft to fix this problem, the NSA kept quiet, presumably in order to use the flaw to access foreign intelligence targets running Microsoft operating systems.
In his first public comments since the attack on Friday, Mr Hunt told Sky News: "Although we have never seen anything on this scale when it comes to ransomware attacks, they are relatively common and there are things that you can do, that everyone can do, all of us can do, to protect ourselves against them".
Mac or Linux users are at the moment safe from harm, but there remains a risk they could be infected via the intranet once a member computer is infected.
Theft of the software was reported in April, when it was published by the Shadow Brokers, a group that has been linked to Russian Federation. The longer the users wait, the higher the ransom money. Following that, it automatically spreads to all linked computers. That may not be easy.
To those that think the comparison to a Tomahawk missile is unfounded just look at how the UK's National Health Service was brought to its knees by a few lines of code.
"Who's culpable are the criminals that distributed it and the criminals that weaponized it", Bossert said.
Officials in Japan and South Korea said they believed security updates had helped ward off the worst of the impact. However, he said it's only a matter of time before a malevolent version exists.
"If there is a silver lining to it, you're not out a million dollars", he said.
Europol's European Cybercrime Centre said that anyone hit by ransomware should use the unlocking tools provided at NoMoreRansom.org, a free resource developed by Europol in partnership with the Dutch police and other industry partners.
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