Ransomware attacks: Microsoft blames United States government for 'stockpiling' vulnerabilities

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday night ordered his homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, to convene an "emergency meeting" to assess the threat posed by the global attack, a senior administration official told Reuters.Senior U.S. security officials held another meeting in the White House Situation Room on Saturday, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency were working to help mitigate damage and identify the perpetrators of the massive cyber attack, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The people behind the WannaCry attacks are believed to have received about $43,000 so far, but there is less certainty about the return of the encrypted data. Other services soon went down, and then, the unidentified NHS worker says, a "bitcoin virus pop-up message" started taking over computer screens. His law firm sued LinkedIn after a 2012 data breach, alleging individuals paid for premium accounts because the company falsely stated it had top-quality cyber security measures. The ease of stopping the attack suggests the hackers were new to this game.

Even though some security experts predicted that ransomware attacks would recede this year, that is not happening and the NSA leak suggests there will be additional attacks.

For instance, the Conficker virus, which first appeared in 2008 and can disable system security features, also spreads through vulnerabilities in internal file sharing.

If you run a business, there is detailed guidance on the National Cyber Security Centre website you can follow to make sure your company is protected.

"The only way to protect against this is to have complete visibility of all devices on a network at all times, and the ability to understand and control the devices and their levels of access across the organisation's network".

At least one strain of the ransomware has proven especially vicious.

The WannaCry ransomware is nasty and once it gets hold of your files, there's no way to decrypt them - at least not for now.

Leading global shipper FedEx Corp said it was one of the companies whose Microsoft Corp Windows system was infected with the malware that security firms said was delivered via spam emails.

The police have also asked residents to avoid clicking on any unknown link on websites or any suspicious emails or download links.

If you're not on a work network that already has security, consider installing some form of security program on your computer. With data decryption usually priced in the hundreds of dollars, many organizations find it easier to pay and move on; the leading cybersecurity firm Trend Micro recently researched United Kingdom organizations who have received ransomware in the past two years and found that nearly two-thirds of those it surveyed paid the ransom. Better still, set the system to automatically do this on your behalf.

Why are the attackers doing this?

Businesses that are at particular risk of a ransomware attack are those where operational access to data is critical, which is why the impact on the NHS has been disproportionately serious. The WannaCry software has locked thousands of computers in more than 150 countries. The ransomware attack began on Friday afternoon, where it affected England's National Health Service, prompted automaker Renault to idle factories in France, and many others.

- How did the attack spread worldwide?

Do you have to open an email attachment to be infected?

The attacks are being blamed on a piece of malware called WCry, WannaCry or Wana Decryptor, alleged to have been stolen from the National Security Agency, as the Bleeping Computer site reports.

The hole is fixed in the latest versions of Windows.

In Japan, several large manufacturers have been hit, reporter John Matthews tells NPR: "Companies including Hitachi have reported several of their systems going down, including computers at a hospital in eastern Japan".

Latest News