The malicious ransomware attacks that affected computers in at least 150 countries on Friday could spread further as employees return to work this week, according to several cyber-security experts.
This vicious piece of code is a type of a Trojan encryptor created to extort money from users by holding their data to ransom. Once the software is executed it either replicates to infect other computers on the same network or encrypts the central business data store.
The malware is installed on the host computer, the user locked out and the data shelved. The cyber criminals have demanded a fee of about United States $300 in crypto-currencies like Bitcoin for unlocking the device.
"A manual human operator must activate decryption", revealed Matthew Hickey, a cyber-security researcher at UK-based firm Hacker House. According to a recent report by StatCounter, Windows 7 accounts for almost 60 percent market share for desktop Windows versions in India, followed by Windows 10 with almost 20 percent market share. The group appeared to make its first public statement in the wake of the WannaCry attack by posting a large, somewhat unintelligible message on Steemit, a new social networking platform driven by blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies.
Following the outbreak of WannaCry ransomware on Friday, various reports said that India was one of the worst-hit nations targeted by the malware. But some organizations didn't apply it, and others were running older versions of Windows that Microsoft no longer supports.
Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith took aim at the US government over the ransomware campaign, describing it as a "wake-up call" for governments to stop "stockpiling" vulnerabilities for intelligence purposes. Moreover, the risk of getting affected is still high as employees might come back to work and click on infected links or email attachments that might further spread the ransomware software.
In a twist of irony, the use of outdated software among Indian banks and ATMs have reportedly made ATM networks immune to the ransomware attack. However, as of now, there is no patch for these older operating systems for the EsteemAudit vulnerability.
Microsoft released a security update to patch the vulnerability on March 14, a month before the theft of exploits from the NSA was publicly reported, Smith said.
Following the WannaCry outbreak, Microsoft made the unusual move in providing updates for numerous operating systems that haven't seen any official support in years, including XP.
A second wave of global infections has also been halted thanks to a a new "kill switch" by Matthieu Suiche, the founder of cybersecurity startup Comae Technologies, has prevented about 10,000 infected machines from propagating the ransomware since it was flipped roughly 24 hours ago. That could saddle the company with the XP albatross for many years past when it hoped to be free from having to maintain the software.
The WannaCry pandemic is thus a win-win situation for Microsoft, which will only end up minting more money from the fiasco.
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