Ransomware Attack, 150 Nations Under Cyber Threat, It's Effect In India

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A gigantic ransomware cyber attack hits close to 200,000 victims in over 150 countries, said the Head of EU police agency Europol Rob Wainwright on Sunday. This cyber attack on Friday targeted at a number of organizations across Europe, including Spain’s biggest telecommunication firm and Britain’s state-run health service. Rob warned workers of possible new troubles when they’ll switch on their computers at the start of the working week. It was expected that Monday would be a busy day, especially in Asia, which has not yet experienced the worst impact of it as companies and organizations will open their computers by today.

The Europol spokesperson Jan Op Gen Oorth said that “It is the biggest ransomware attack ever”. He also said that the number of affected networks and victims will go up because “many workers left their computer turned on last Friday and will probably find out that they are also affected by the malware on Monday morning.” A malicious software called ransomware, which affected the computer systems, locks up computers and demands a ransom to restore access. According to a BBC report, screenshots of this programme that locks computers and demands a ransom in Bitcoin were shared online by parties claiming to be victims of it. This is yet not cleared that if the attacks were all connected or not.

The investigation is still going on to find the real culprits behind this massive cyber attack. On the other hand, Europol thinks that malware began to spread on Friday from Britain’s National Health Service and later it affected countries like Germany, China, Russia, Spain, and India. The Op Gen Oorth said, “It remains unclear what the motivation was. Usually, ‘ransomware’ attacks are designed to be revenue sources, but in this case, the ransom was quite low.” Only a few individuals or companies have so far selected to pay the ransom of $300 or more, following law enforcement recommendations as per Europol.

A Singapore-based researcher Christian Karam said, “Expect to hear a lot more about this tomorrow (Monday) morning when users are back in their offices and might fall for phishing emails.” According to media reports, investigators are looking for those hackers that had affected systems at hospitals, banks, and government agencies globally. The experts said that this ransom virus named as WannaCry or some other variants has locked up more than 200,000 computers and new versions of the virus are also expected. The various organizations and individuals across the world who faced large cost as after they were threatened to keep computers disabled until victims pay a ransom to receive a decryption key.

This malware hit badly to Britain’s National Health Service as it causes extensive disruptions and interrupting medical procedures across hospitals in Scotland and England. As per the government, 48 out of the National Health Services’ 248 organizations were affected. However, by Saturday evening, all but six were back to normal. A Downing street spokesperson said on Saturday that the British Government had not paid any ransom when they were asked about paying the ransom to out of the situation. In Germany, people posted the pictures on social media of ransomware message displaying on the scheduling screens at the train stations. However, Germany’s national railway service Deutsche Bahn tweeted that its train service had not been affected and they are working at full speed to solve all the issues. As per DPA news agency, Deutsche Bahn’s video surveillance technology was also hit.

The head of EU police agency Europol Rob Wainwright said, “The latest count is over 200,000 victims in 150 countries and many of those will be businesses, including large corporations.” Most of the infected computers are out-dated devices that the organizations considered not worst for upgrading. Many of the organizations are not paying the ransom as they are not sure that after paying it, the access would be restored to normalcy. This virus is not as impactful in Microsoft Windows XP Software as it was first identified by the US National Security Agency. Microsoft also released a security update in March as a cure against the virus, but many of the NHS trusts had not made it functional.

Now, Microsoft has sent out patches for Windows XP in an attempt to limit the harm. Rudd told the BBC, “We’re not able to tell you who is behind that attack. That work is still ongoing.” She also said that it has affected up to 100 countries and it wasn’t specifically an attack on Britain’s NHS.  Many of the systems left vulnerable as they were outdated or system administrators futile to apply the patch.  The chief executive of the cybersecurity firm BullGuard said, “This was a completely preventable attack — to the extent that organizations have comprehensive patching systems in place. However, life is never that simple.”

The IT experts of Healthcare Systems said that there was no surprise that hospitals will become easily the victims of ransomware attack. The health department has faced hundreds of ransomware attacks in the past two years. Avi Rubin, technical director of the Information Security Institute at Johns Hopkins University, said that they are the ideal target for this type of malware due to a “perfect storm” of factors. “If no one ever paid these ransoms, the hackers would have no reason to launch these attacks. But I’m not the one sitting in a hospital in need of immediate medical attention,” Rubin added.

The chief information officer of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School John D. Halamka said that the healthcare organizations just spend 2 to 4 percent of their operating budget on information technology, compared with 25 to 35 percent for financial services. “We spend billions on new technology. Yet the reality is that we’re still as vulnerable as our most gullible employee,” he added. Rubin also put lights on the issue of poorer hospitals and said that they are more vulnerable than wealthy hospitals that have built cyber security rooms effectively. Most of the cyber security researchers were shocked by the fact that complicated telecommunication firms like of Spain’s Telefonica were so vulnerable. “This just goes to show that even the largest, most resource-rich enterprises can be brought low by something as simple as a skipped patch,” said Lipman.

On Saturday, Centre issued a security alert to computer users, following a wave of ransomware cyber attack crossing more than 150 countries including India. Near about 100 computers of the Andhra Pradesh police have been affected as per the monitory arm of the ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. The Cyber Security professionals are working round the clock over the weekend to save the Indian computer users from the biggest ransomware attack. The cyber security firms told the Economic Times that the effect of the WannyCry cyber attack is minimal so far, but the real test would be on Monday when the professionals will switch on their computers.

This malicious virus blocks the access to the computer until the user pays the asked ransom to them through BitCoin. It has affected more than 150 countries till now including India. According to reports, ransomware attacks impacted systems of Andhra Pradesh police, four manufacturing companies, two retailers, the Indian operations of a multinational, the Chennai facility of an automaker and two banks. The executive director at PwC Sivarama Krishnan said that his team is working round the clock over the weekend and assisting more than 2,000 clients in helping identify and block threats using firewalls. Microsoft released a patch to prevent from this malware in mid-March, so the organizations and individuals who did not update their systems created a problem for themselves.

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