Microsoft re-releases security update after cyberattacks

Francis Harris
May 22, 2017

Before Friday's attack, Microsoft had made fixes for older systems, such as 2001's Windows XP, available only to mostly larger organizations that paid extra for extended technical support.

Microsoft says releasing the patches recognises and helps the many users who still have machines with its earlier operating systems and will protect computers not already affected.

A global cyber attack leveraging hacking tools believed to have been developed by the U.S. National Security Agency has infected tens of thousands of computers in almost 100 countries, disrupting Britain's health system and global shipper FedEx. The company, which had labelled the March patch as "critical", said it was now providing a security update for all Windows customers.

The malware communicates using the anonymising Tor network and demands payments in the equally anonymous currency, bitcoin, making tracing those behind the attack more complicated.

The ransomware locks users' files and demands a United States dollars 300 payment to allow access.

"Very few banks if any have been affected because they've learned from painful experience of being the number one target for cybercrime", he said.

The most disruptive attacks were reported in Britain, where hospitals and clinics were forced to turn away patients after losing access to computers on Friday.

For a clear picture, WannaCry is a form of ransomware that locks up files on your computer and encrypts them in a way that you can not access them.

Use the latest software, which often includes solutions for known weaknesses, and run an up-to-date anti-virus programme.


Europol, the European Union's policing agency, said the attack remains an "escalating threat" whose numbers "are still going up" after a brief slowdown on Friday. "There's always more we can all do to make sure we're secure against viruses, but I think there have already been good preparations in place by the NHS to make sure they were ready for this sort of attack".

It is believed to be the biggest online extortion ever, hitting British hospitals, German rail and companies and government agencies.

The brunt of the attacks was felt in Russian Federation, including the country's largest mobile phone company.

But he said it would be straightforward for the existing attackers to launch new releases or for other ransomware authors to start copying the way the malware replicated.

"This is good practice anyway and, like numerous recommendations we make here, prevents against a range of cyber attacks".

Here is a video showing a machine on the left infected with MS17-010 worm, spreading WCry ransomware to machine on the right in real time. Businesses need to patch to be completely protected, but Hickey's solution works for organizations that might need more time to upgrade.

It's not clear who the original source of the global WannaCry attacks is at this point, or even if it's a single threat actor or multiple actors. Cyber criminals targeted users in 150 nations, including the U.S., Russia, Brazil, Spain, and India, along with major government agencies, such as the U.K.'s National Health Service and Germany's national railway.

According to Matthew Hickey, founder of the security firm Hacker House, the attack is not surprising, and it shows many organizations do not apply updates in a timely fashion.

Other reports by TheDigitalNewspaper

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