Those include a known and highly unsafe security hole in Microsoft Windows, tardy users who didn't apply Microsoft's March software fix, and malware created to spread quickly once inside university, business and government networks.
The WannaCry ransomware itself is promulgating as a worm through networks worldwide. The patch was automatically applied for Windows 7 systems in March, but Windows XP users must download the patch to secure their system.
Computers in 150 countries have been affected.
Microsoft has blamed the United States government for creating the software code that was used by hackers to launch the cyber-attacks.
When the computer virus struck on Friday 47 trusts were affected and seven had to close their doors in A&E to ambulances.
In the wake of the attack, Microsoft said it had taken the "highly unusual step" of releasing a patch for computers running older operating systems including Windows XP, Windows 8 and Windows Server 2003.
There's a blame game brewing over who's responsible for the massive cyberattack that infected hundreds of thousands of computers.
In this podcast, ComputerWeekly.com storage editor Antony Adshead talks with Vigitrust CEO Mathieu Gorge about why good backups are key to protecting against ransomware and why organisations should also check their cloud backup service-level agreements (SLAs).
Ransomware is a sophisticated piece of malware that blocks the victim's access to his/her files, and the only way to regain access to the files is to pay a ransom.
They exploited a ideal storm of factors the Windows hole, the ability to get ransom paid in digital currency, poor security practices but it's unclear if the payoff, at least so far, was worth the trouble. "You didn't, so I didn't have access to my data and couldn't run my business".
You convert your dollars to bitcoins, - the crooks are happy to explain how to do that and how to pay them, - and then maybe, if there is really honor among thieves, you might just get your files back.
In the case of WannaCry, researchers speaking to WIRED US suggested the perpetrators did a poor job of verifying payments, making it unlikely paying the ransom will result in your files being unlocked. "We need governments to consider the damage to civilians that comes from hoarding these vulnerabilities and the use of these exploits", he said.
Microsoft has issued an advisory while releasing a patch for Windows XP.
Microsoft is unlikely to face legal trouble over the ransomware attack, according to legal experts. This leaves them vulnerable to the exploit enforced by WannaCry, which was patched by Microsoft earlier this year in March.
On Friday, May 12, 2017, around 11 AM ET/3PM GMT, a ransomware attack of "unprecedented level" started spreading WannaCry around the world.
"The government can't do this alone - they're really going to have to reach out and work with Apple, with Microsoft and Google", Martin said.
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