Health Care

'WannaCry': Researcher finds 'kill switch' for cyberattack ransomware

'WannaCry': Researcher finds 'kill switch' for cyberattack ransomware

The malware, dubbed "WannaCry", hits systems running Microsoft Windows on which a patch released on March 14, 2017 has not been applied.

Affected by the onslaught were computer networks at hospitals in Britain, Russia's interior ministry, the Spanish telecom giant Telefonica and the United States delivery firm FedEx and many other organizations. The security block for this ransomware was pushed out by Microsoft back in March, but won't have reached OSes that are no longer supported - like Windows XP.

It then drops ransom notes to a user in a text file, demanding $300 worth of bitcoins to be paid to unlock the infected files within a certain period of time.

Attacks then began being reported across many other countries, including Turkey, Vietnam, the Philippines, Japan, the U.S., China, Spain, Italy and Taiwan with the majority of affected computers in Russian Federation.

"The spread is enormous", Adam Kujawa, the director of malware intelligence at Malwarebytes, which discovered the original version of WannaCry, told Wired.

Unfortunately, however, computers already affected will not be helped by the solution. The U.K.'s National Health Service was one of the biggest organizations hit by the ransomware.

Britain's NHS said that 45 of its hospitals, doctors' offices and ambulance companies had been crippled - making it arguably one of the largest institutions affected worldwide. Czech Republic-based cybersecurity firm Avast has so far recorded over 50,000 attacks globally since Friday afternoon.

Microsoft has made the decision, which they say is unusual, but is regularly seen during these high profile attacks, to provide a security update which includes Windows XP, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2003.

Spain's Telefonica was among the companies hit.

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On Saturday, a report from Reuters indicated that the impact of the ransomware has been greatly reduced in recent hours due to the work of an unnamed UK-based researcher who worked to limit its spread. In many cases, the senior official said, the attacks have been successful because they are against pirated or unauthorized copies of Microsoft Windows, which can not be easily patched to fix the vulnerability.

The ransomware may be using an exploit developed by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and revealed publicly in a WikiLeaks data dump last month.

NEW YORK - Dozens of countries were hit with a huge cyberextortion attack Friday that locked up computers and held users' files for ransom at a multitude of hospitals, companies and government agencies.

Cyber security experts rushed to restore systems on Saturday after an unprecedented global wave of cyberattacks that struck targets ranging from Russia's banks to British hospitals and a French carmaker's factories.

Security experts have detected tens of thousands of attacks, apparently spreading over LANs and the internet like a computer worm.

"Because WannaCrypt used a single hardcoded domain, my registration of it caused all infections globally to believe they were inside a sandbox. thus we initially unintentionally prevented the spread", the researcher said, humbly and anonymously, in his blog post.

According to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, a malware variant is widespread throughout the company's systems and the IT staff has urged employees to shut down their computers and network connections in order to limit the reach of the attack.

Deutsche Bahn says that departure and arrival display screens at its stations were hit Friday night by the attack.

Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who exposed the broad scope of NSA surveillance in 2013, tweeted, "If @NSAGov had privately disclosed the flaw used to attack hospitals when they *found* it, not when they lost it, this may not have happened".


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