Com­pa­nies hob­ble from fear­some cy­ber­at­tack

‘It hit their back­ups, servers, work­sta­tions, ev­ery­thing’

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

Many busi­nesses still strug­gled Fri­day to re­cover hope­lessly scram­bled com­puter net­works, col­lat­eral dam­age from a mas­sive cy­ber­at­tack that tar­geted Ukraine three days ago. The Her­itage Val­ley Health Sys­tem couldn’t of­fer lab and di­ag­nos­tic imag­ing ser­vices at 14 com­mu­nity and neigh­bor­hood of­fices in west­ern Penn­syl­va­nia. DLA Piper, a Lon­don­based law firm with of­fices in 40 coun­tries, said on its web­site that email sys­tems were down; a re­cep­tion­ist said email hadn’t been re­stored by the close of busi­ness day.

Dave Kennedy, a for­mer Marine cy­ber­war­rior who is now CEO of the se­cu­rity com­pany Trust­edSec, said one US com­pany he is help­ing is re­build­ing its en­tire net­work of more than 5,000 com­put­ers. “It hit ev­ery­thing, their back­ups, servers, their work­sta­tions, ev­ery­thing,” he said. “Ev­ery­thing was just nuked and wiped.” Kennedy added, “Some of these com­pa­nies are ac­tu­ally us­ing pieces of pa­per to write down credit card num­bers. It’s crazy.”

The cy­ber­at­tack that be­gan Tues­day brought even some For­tune 1000 com­pa­nies to their knees, ex­perts say. Kennedy said a lot more “isn’t be­ing re­ported by com­pa­nies who don’t want to say that they are hit.” The mal­ware, which se­cu­rity ex­perts are call­ing NotPetya, was un­leashed through Ukraine tax soft­ware, called MeDoc. Cus­tomers’ net­works be­came in­fected down­load­ing au­to­matic up­dates from its maker’s web­site. Many cus­tomers are multi­na­tion­als with of­fices in the east­ern Euro­pean na­tion.

Nearly un­stop­pable

The mal­ware spread so quickly, worm­ing its way au­to­mat­i­cally through in­ter­con­nected pri­vate net­works, as to be nearly un­stop­pable. What saved the world from dig­i­tal may­hem, ex­perts say, was its lim­ited busi­ness-to-busi­ness con­nec­tiv­ity with Ukrainian en­ter­prises, the in­tended tar­get. Had those di­rect con­nec­tions been ex­ten­sive - on the level of a ma­jor in­dus­trial na­tion - “you are talk­ing about a cat­a­strophic fail­ure of all of our sys­tems and en­vi­ron­ments across the globe. I mean it could have been ab­so­lutely ter­ri­fy­ing,” Kennedy said.

Mi­crosoft said NotPetya hit com­pa­nies in at least 64 na­tions, in­clud­ing Rus­sia, Ger­many and the United States. Vic­tims in­clude drug gi­ant Merck & Co and the ship­ping com­pany FedEx’s TNT sub­sidiary. Trade in FedEx stock was tem­po­rar­ily halted Wed­nes­day. One ma­jor vic­tim, Dan­ish ship­ping gi­ant A.P. Maersk-Moller, said Fri­day that its cargo ter­mi­nals and port op­er­a­tions were “now run­ning close to nor­mal again.” It said op­er­a­tions had been re­stored in Spain, Morocco, In­dia, Brazil, Ar­gentina and Lima, Peru, but prob­lems lin­gered in Rot­ter­dam, the Nether­lands; El­iz­a­beth, New Jer­sey; and Los An­ge­les.

An em­ployee at an in­ter­na­tional tran­sit com­pany at Lima’s port of Cal­lao told The As­so­ci­ated Press that Maersk em­ploy­ees’ tele­phone sys­tem and email had been knocked out by the virus - so they were “stuck us­ing their per­sonal cell­phones.” The em­ployee spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause he’s not au­tho­rized to speak to re­porters.

Back in Ukraine, the pain con­tin­ued. Of­fi­cials as­sured the pub­lic that the out­break was un­der con­trol, and ser­vice has been re­stored to cash ma­chines and at the air­port. But some bank branches re­main closed as in­for­ma­tion-tech­nol­ogy pro­fes­sion­als scram­bled to re­build net­works from scratch. One gov­ern­ment em­ployee told the AP she was still re­ly­ing on her iPhone be­cause her of­fice’s com­put­ers were “col­lapsed.” She, too, was not au­tho­rized to talk to jour­nal­ists.

Se­cu­rity re­searchers now con­cur that while NotPetya was wrapped in the guise of ex­tor­tion­ate “ran­somware” which en­crypts files and de­mands pay­ment - it was re­ally de­signed to ex­act max­i­mum de­struc­tion and dis­rup­tion, with Ukraine the clear tar­get. Com­put­ers were dis­abled there at banks, gov­ern­ment agen­cies, en­ergy com­pa­nies, su­per­mar­kets, rail­ways and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions providers. —AP


BUCHAREST: A woman looks at a com­puter mon­i­tor back dropped by a real time cy­ber-at­tacks world map, at the head­quar­ters of Bit­de­fender.

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