Wan­naCry could en­cour­age new hack­ers

New Straits Times - - World -

NEW YORK: The dan­ger from a global cy­ber­at­tack that spread to more than 150 na­tions con­tin­ues to fade, and that’s only some of the good news.

Af­ter two se­cu­rity re­searchers greatly slowed down that at­tack, which ef­fec­tively held peo­ple’s doc­u­ments, pho­tos and other dig­i­tal files hostage, hard-hit or­gan­i­sa­tions, such as the United King­dom’s Na­tional Health Ser­vice, seem to be bounc­ing back.

The at­tack, how­ever, served as a live demon­stra­tion of a new type of global threat, one that could en­cour­age fu­ture hack­ers.

Here’s what we know about the ran­somware known as Wan­naCry, which locked up dig­i­tal pho­tos, doc­u­ments and other files to hold them for ran­som.

WHERE IT CAME FROM

Re­searchers were puz­zling out how Wan­naCry started. Fig­ur­ing that out could yield im­por­tant clues to the iden­tity of its au­thors. The mal­ware spread rapidly in­side com­puter net­works by tak­ing ad­van­tage of vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties in mostly older ver­sions of Mi­crosoft Win­dows. That weak­ness was pur­port­edly iden­ti­fied and stock­piled for use by the United States Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency; it was sub­se­quently stolen and pub­lished on the In­ter­net. But it re­mained un­clear how Wan­naCry got onto com­put­ers in the first place.

An­a­lysts at the Euro­pean Union cy­berse­cu­rity agency said the hack­ers likely scanned the In­ter­net for sys­tems that were vul­ner­a­ble to in­fec­tion and ex­ploited those com­put­ers re­motely.

Once es­tab­lished, Wan­naCry en­crypted com­puter files and dis­played a mes­sage de­mand­ing be­tween US$300 and US$600 (RM1,300 and RM2,600) worth of the dig­i­tal cur­rency bit­coin to re­lease them. Fail­ure to pay would leave the data scram­bled and likely beyond re­pair un­less users had un­af­fected backup copies.

RAN­SOM PAY­MENTS

In­ves­ti­ga­tors were mon­i­tor­ing three bit­coin ac­counts as­so­ci­ated with Wan­naCry, where its vic­tims were di­rected to send ran­som pay­ments. So far, there had been no with­drawals from those ac­counts, which re­ceived only about 250 pay­ments worth about US$72,000.

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