WannaCry ransomware. Whom should we blame?

WannaCry ransomware. Whom should we blame?: A computer malware that has spread across 150 countries appears to be slowing down, with few reports of fresh attacks in Asia and Europe earlier today.

The WannaCry ransomware started taking over users’ files on Friday, demanding $300 (£230) to restore access. Computers in their thousands have been affected thus far. Even Microsoft considered the enormity of the attack as a “wake-up call.”

Analysis of three accounts linked to the ransom demands suggests only about $38,000 (£29,400) had been paid by Monday morning. However, as the ransomware warning declared that the cost would double after three days, the payments are likely to increase. It threatens to delete files within seven days if no payment is made.

Some of the organisations targeted globally are Germany’s rail network Deutsche Bahn, Spanish telecommunications operator Telefonica, US logistics giant FedEx and Russia’s interior ministry.

Senior spokesman for Europol, Jan Op Gen Oorth, told the AFP news agency: “The number of victims appears not to have gone up and so far the situation seems stable in Europe, which is a success. He went on to say that “It seems that a lot of internet security guys over the weekend did their homework and ran the security software updates.”

UK Health Minister Jeremy Hunt has stated that UK intelligence services had found no evidence of a second wave of attacks on Monday.

The UK’s National Crime Agency earlier tweeted: “We haven’t seen a second spike in WannaCry ransomware attacks, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be one.” In relation to the demands for payments the UK’s National Crime Agency was “do not pay!” – there is no guarantee that systems will be restored.

The badly affected National Health Service said seven out of 47 trusts that were hit were still facing serious issues.

French carmaker Renault said its plant in the northern town of Douai would not reopen on Monday as it dealt with the cyber-attack.

In Asia, where offices closed before the ransomware struck on Friday, the spread was reportedly slowing:

  • Australia: At least eight businesses reported being locked out of their systems
  • South Korea: Four companies reported problems over the weekend. One cinema chain was unable to display trailers
  • Indonesia: Records at two hospital were blocked
  • Japan: Both Nissan and Hitachi reported some units had been affected, but not seriously
  • China: Hundreds of thousands of computers suffered initially, China’s Qihoo tech firm said. Universities, with older systems, were particularly badly hit. Some payment systems and government services affected, but less than feared

Banking systems across the region were largely unaffected.

No information as to perpetrators of this attack is thus far known. Though the Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “Russia has absolutely nothing to do with it.”

A UK security researcher known as “MalwareTech”, who helped to limit the ransomware attack, predicted “another one coming… quite likely on Monday”.

MalwareTech, whose name was revealed in UK media to be 22-year-old Marcus Hutchins, was hailed as an “accidental hero” after registering a domain name to track the spread of the virus, which actually ended up halting it.

Microsoft’s says the tool used in this current attack had been developed by the US National Security Agency and was stolen by hackers. It is highly critical of the way governments store data on software vulnerabilities.

Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith said on Sunday: “We have seen vulnerabilities stored by the CIA show up on Wikileaks, and now this vulnerability stolen from the NSA has affected customers around the world.

He went on to say that “An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the US military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen.”

Microsoft said it had released a Windows security update in March to tackle the problem involved in the latest attack, but many users were yet to run it. Microsoft also needs to consider what obligation it has to update all users – not just the ones who pay extra for security on older systems.

Updating one’s computer if one is an individual is a piece of cake, but for a multi-national company this process time-consuming, expensive and complex.

Therefore for Microsoft to say it will not keep those systems safe unless they shell out more money, then that in itself, I think, is something of a ransom.

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