DemDaily: Hacked and Attacked

May 15, 2017
Cyber warfare, via hacking or attacking, has become an increasing part of our reality in a world where close to 50% of the population is online.

On Friday, a malicious malware or "ransomware" virus called "WannaCry" was unleashed on the internet, targeting Microsoft Windows users by locking down, then holding their files for ransom.

Victims asked to pay $300 through Bitcoin

The cyber attack, described by Europol as unprecedented in scale, infected more than 230,000 computers in 150 countries, including Britain, Russia, China, Vietnam, Spain and the United States.

Companies that were hardest hit included Telefónica (Spain), Britain's National Health Service (NHS), Federal Express, Renault, Nissan, Russian Railways, LATAM Airlines, among others.

Most affected are older versions of the Microsoft operating system, like Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. Linux and MacOS have not been affected.

How It Works
One of the most common ways of spreading an attack is through phishing or false emails that, once opened, have a 'worm-like' ability to spread through cyber networks.

Phishing is an attempt to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, often for malicious reasons, by disguising as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication

As in this case, a piece of malicious software takes control through a vulnerability or bug in the system to encrypt and freeze files until a ransom is paid, and a key provided to restore the files.

The WannaCry "bug" is called EternalBlue, which has apparently been known to the National Security Agency (NSA) for awhile.

The WannaCry price to unlock a file is $300, to be paid in the cryptocurrancy BitCoins, but the hackers have warned that may go up.

A UK-based security researcher found a temporary method to slow the spread, but a second wave is expected.

 

What To Do
Microsoft has issued a "patch" to remove the underlying vulnerability for supported systems, and has made the rare move of providing updates for the older operating systems that otherwise are no longer supported.

To help safeguard against WannaCry and other viruses:

  • Update your operating system (check the "auto update feature")
  • Install good Anti-virus' software
  • Do not open suspicious emails or attachments
  • Backup your hard disk via an external harddrive

Microsoft instructions on defending against the ransomware. We hope you don't have to use it!

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Kimberly Scott
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Sources: Wikipedia, HuffPostIndia, International Business Times

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