The Mercury

Global rush to fix computers


THE WORLD Health Organisati­on has confirmed an Ebola outbreak in a remote forested part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the first in that country since 2014. At least nine people are suspected of being infected, and three have died.

The outbreak has raised alarm about the possibilit­y of a new epidemic. “An investigat­ion team led by the Ministry of Health and supported by WHO and partners is expected to reach the affected area in the coming days”, said Peter Salama, WHO’s executive director for emergencie­s. The WHO was informed last week of undiagnose­d illness, deaths and haemorrhag­ing.

Washington Post RAMALLAH: As more than 1 300 Palestinia­n prisoners entered their 27th day of a mass hunger strike in Israeli prisons, Palestinia­n leaders escalated efforts to put pressure on Israeli authoritie­s as hunger strikers are “struggling with death”.

Israel’s Minister of Public Security has refused suggestion­s by the Israel Prison Service to begin negotiatio­ns with the prisoners.

Meanwhile, 11 Palestinia­n prisoners joined the strike on Friday in Israel’s Gilboa prison. Prisoners’ rights group Addameer said a visit has been scheduled with the jailed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s Ahmad Saadat, held in solitary confinemen­t. Ma’an ABIDJAN: Mutinous soldiers in Ivory Coast shot three people on Saturday and cut off access to the second largest city, Bouake, as a revolt escalated over demands for bonus payments.

The revolt began in Bouake early on Friday before spreading quickly, following a similar pattern to a mutiny by the same group in January that paralysed parts of Ivory Coast and marred its image as a post-war success story.

Mutineers seized control of the national military headquarte­rs and defence ministry in the centre of the commercial capital Abidjan on Friday.

They stepped up the pressure on Saturday, blocking roads out of Bouake, the epicentre of January’s uprising, and protesting around the country, including the northern city of Korhogo, where two men on a motorcycle were shot in the legs as they tried to get through a roadblock manned by the mutineers.

In Bouake, soldiers fired on a group of demobilise­d former rebels seriously wounding one of them, according to their spokespers­on and a local lawmaker.

Sergeant Seydou Kone, a spokespers­on for the mutineers, said the ex-fighters, who went through a disarmamen­t programme following the country’s 2011 civil war, were planning their own protest, as they did early this week, and his men had opened fire to stop them.

“We do not want to negotiate with anyone,” said Kone by phone from Bouake in the centre of the country.

“We’re also ready to fight if we are attacked. We have nothing to lose.”

In a statement on state television late on Friday, General Sekou Toure, the army’s chief of staff, threatened the soldiers with severe sanctions if they did not end the revolt.

Ivory Coast’s defence minister and government spokesman could not be reached for comment on Saturday.

The soldiers were promised bonus payments by the government after the January mutiny but it has struggled to disburse the money following a budget crunch caused by the collapse in the price of cocoa, Ivory Coast’s main export.

Ivory Coast has emerged as one of the world’s fastest growing economies following a decade-long political crisis ended by a 2011 civil war. But deep divisions persist, particular­ly in a military assembled from former rebel and loyalist combatants.

The government has already paid 8 400 soldiers, most of them former rebels who helped bring President Alassane Ouattara to power, bonuses of 5 million CFA francs (R112 000) each as part of a deal to end the January revolt.

On Thursday, following a meeting with authoritie­s, a spokespers­on for the group said they would forego demands for remaining bonuses of 7 million francs. But that decision was rejected by some soldiers.

Bouake residents said shops were closed as soldiers fired weapons in the air and patrolled the streets in cars.

Mutineers also took control of the northern city of Odienne and there was sporadic gunfire in Daloa, the main cocoa growing hub in south-western Ivory Coast, which is the world’s top producer of the chocolate ingredient.

TECHNICAL staff scrambled yesterday to patch computers and restore infected ones, amid fears that a ransomware worm that stopped car factories, hospitals, shops and schools could wreak fresh havoc today when employees log back on.

Cybersecur­ity experts said the spread of the virus dubbed WannaCry – “ransomware” that locked more than 100 000 computers – had slowed, but the respite might only be brief.

New versions of the worm were expected, they said, and the extent of the damage from Friday’s attack remained unclear.

Marin Ivezic, cybersecur­ity partner at PwC, said some clients had been “working around the clock” to restore systems and install software updates, or patches, or restore systems from backups.

Microsoft released patches last month and on Friday to fix a vulnerabil­ity that allowed the worm to spread across networks, a rare and powerful feature that caused infections to surge on Friday.

The code for exploiting that bug, known as “Eternal Blue”, was released on the internet in March by a hacking group known as the Shadow Brokers.

The group claimed it was stolen from a repository of National Security Agency hacking tools. The agency has not responded to requests for comment.

Hong Kong-based Ivezic said the ransomware was forcing some more “mature” clients affected by the worm to abandon their usual cautious testing of patches “to do unschedule­d downtime and urgent patching”. He declined to identify which clients had been affected.

The head of the EU police agency said yesterday the cyber assault hit 200 000 victims in at least 150 countries and that number would grow when people returned to work today.

“The global reach is unpreceden­ted… and among the victims count businesses, including large corporatio­ns,” said Europol director Rob Wainwright.

“At the moment, we face an escalating threat. The numbers are going up. I am worried about how the numbers will continue to grow when people go back to work and turn (on) their machines.”

Today was expected to be a busy day, especially in Asia which may not have seen the worst of the impact yet, as companies and organisati­ons turned on their computers.

“Expect to hear a lot more when users are back in their offices and might fall for phishing e-mails” or other as yet unconfirme­d ways the worm may propagate, said Christian Karam, a Singapore-based security researcher.

Targets large and small have been hit.

Renault said it had halted manufactur­ing at plants in France and Romania to prevent the spread of ransomware in its systems. Among the other victims is a Nissan manufactur­ing plant in Sunderland, England.

Hundreds of hospitals and clinics in the British National Health Service were infected on Friday, forcing them to send patients to other facilities.

German rail operator Deutsche Bahn said some electronic signs at stations announcing arrivals and departures were infected.

In Asia, some hospitals, schools, universiti­es and other institutio­ns were affected. Internatio­nal shipper FedEx Corp said some of its Windows computers were also breached.

Telecommun­ications company Telefonica was among the targets in Spain. Portugal Telecom and Telefonica Argentina were both targeted.

A Jakarta hospital said the cyber virus had infected 400 computers. It expected big queues today when about 500 people were due to register.

In Singapore, a company that supplies digital signage, MediaOnlin­e, was rushing to fix its systems after a technician’s error had led to 12 kiosks being infected in two malls. The systems were not connected to the malls’ or tenants’ networks..

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