'WannaCry' Ransomware Attack Reveals Government Possession of Attack Tools

'WannaCry' Ransomware Attack Reveals Government Possession of Attack Tools

But with Microsoft making an exception this time and providing the patch free to XP users, it may come under pressure to do the same next time it issues a critical security update.

A ransomware called WannaCry held hostage a record 2,00,000 systems worldwide by May 15 - the fourth day in a series of online attacks - in what has been dubbed as the largest such cyber assault of its kind.

Lawrence Abrams, a New York-based blogger who runs, says many organizations don't install security upgrades because they're anxious about triggering bugs, or they can't afford the downtime.

The analyst reiterated his $80 price target for Microsoft, representing 18 percent upside from Monday's close. Microsoft issued the patch shortly after the vulnerability was made public.

"We view MSFT shares as attractive due to the significant earnings power potential over the next several years", he wrote.

The phenomenon of companies failing to update their systems has been a persistent security problem for years. Following this, it demands a ransom be paid in Bitcoin (virtual money) to let users access their data again.

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The software tools to create the attack were revealed in April among a trove of NSA spy tools that were either leaked or stolen.

The FBI said the hacker or hacking group behind the ransomware gained access to servers either by compromising Windows' Remote Desktop Protocol or by exploiting a critical flaw in its Server Message Block, a computer file-sharing system.

On Friday, May 12, 2017, around 11 AM ET/3PM GMT, a ransomware attack of "unprecedented level" started spreading WannaCry around the world.

Experts say the spread of the virus had been stymied by a security researcher in the United Kingdom hackers have issued new versions of the virus that cyber security organizations are actively trying to counter and stamp out. The ease of stopping the attack suggests the hackers were new to this game.

Bossert sidestepped questions about the government's use of operating system vulnerabilities, but he said WannaCry involved a "vulnerability exploit as one part of a much larger tool that was put together by the culpable parties and not by the USA government".

Critics have charged the NSA with failing to notify software manufacturers of security vulnerabilities in order to maintain its intelligence-gathering capabilities against foreign computers.

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Blaming the ransomware attack on stockpiling of vulnerabilities by governments, Microsoft said, "vulnerabilities stored by the Central Intelligence Agency show up on WikiLeaks, and now this vulnerability stolen from the NSA has affected customers around the world".

"The amount is indeed low", said Michela Menting, digital security research director at ABI Research. "Yet, when a serious vulnerability is discovered in software, many companies respond slowly or say it's not their problem".

"Once one victim inside a network is infected it propagates", Boston-based Barlow said in a phone interview, describing a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows that allows the worm to move from one computer to another.

However, this assertion by the government goes against claims from cyber security experts. According to reports, more than 100 systems of the Andhra Pradesh police have been affected by the ransomware.

When Microsoft sells its operating system software it does so through a licence agreement that states the company is not liable for any security breaches, thus shielding it from any legal complaints, points out Michael Scott, a professor at Southwestern Law School. And while Microsoft said it had already released a security update to patch the vulnerability a month earlier, it would appear that the NSA hadn't told the USA tech giant about the security risk until after it had been stolen. Evidently we need stronger incentives not just for companies to release more secure products, but also for users to keep them updated and protect their data with encryption and backups.

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