WannaCry Ransomware: Microsoft Calls Out NSA For 'Stockpiling' Vulnerabilities

The cyberattack highlights how risky it is for government agencies to continue to engage in the "stockpiling of vulnerabilities" the way they now do, Smith wrote in a blog post on his company's website. The tools were allegedly stolen from a different set of of hackers known as the Equation Group, which has been associated with the U.S. National Security Agency.

Exploits in the hands of governments have repeatedly leaked into the public domain and caused widespread damage, wrote Smith, who compared the leaks of Central Intelligence Agency and NSA vulnerabilities to the USA military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen.

The US government should have treated the stealing of the NSA tool - WannaCry that was apparently modified for Friday's cyber-attack by anonymous hackers - and applied the same rules and remedial measures to it as it would do in case someone stole the Tomahawk missiles from its military. The thawing may be partly credited to a 22-year-old researcher who found a "kill switch" that slows the spread of the virus by simply registering a website name, the Wall Street Journal reported. The ransom demanded of each infected computer was a little more than $300 or so. However, he said it's only a matter of time before a malevolent version exists.

"We haven't fully dodged this bullet at all until we're patched against the vulnerability itself", Kalember said.

The ransomware worm that stopped auto factories, hospitals, shops and schools over the weekend worldwide, with Asia having escaped the worst so far, could wreak fresh havoc on Monday when employees log back on, cyber security experts have warned.

"I believe that this was spread for the objective of causing as much damage as possible", said Matthew Hickey, co-founder of British cyber consulting firm Hacker House.

Europol chief Rob Wainwright said more than 200,000 victims had been hit in more than 150 countries.

"There's some truth to the idea that people are always going to hack themselves", said Dan Wire, a spokesman for security firm FireEye.

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But it's looking increasingly likely that the hackers got the computer codes needed to cripple systems used by so many businesses and governments throughout the world from the National Security Agency.

Chinese media reported that more than 29,000 institutions in the country had been hit, with universities and other educational entities the hardest hit, along with railway services and retailers.

British health minister Jeremy Hunt said it was "encouraging" that a predicted second spike of attacks had not occurred, but the ransomware was a warning to public and private organisations. No details were disclosed.

Researchers who helped prevent the spread of the malware and cybersecurity firms worked around the clock during the weekend to monitor the situation and install a software patch to block the worm from infecting computers in corporations across the U.S., Europe and Asia. Yet in an unusual step, they released a patch for those older systems because of the magnitude of the outbreak.

The ransomware exploited a security hole in Windows XP, a 15-year-old operating system that Microsoft stopped updating in 2014.

The Indian government's Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-in) has issued an alert and, in a late night email, announced an informational webcast about WannaCry scheduled at 11am today. The other is to disable a type of software that connects computers to printers and faxes, which the virus exploits, O'Leary added. And while Microsoft said it had already released a security update to patch the vulnerability one month earlier, the sequence of events fed speculation that the NSA hadn't told the USA tech giant about the security risk until after it had been stolen.

"It's one of those things, in a flawless world, if people were up to date on the patches, this wouldn't be a problem", O'Leary said.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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