Updated: 23rd November 2017

Ransomware attack ‘like having a Tomahawk missile stolen’, says Microsoft boss

Brad Smith says Wannacry attack that locked up to 200,000 computers in 150 countries is a wake-up call amid fears more will be hit as week begins

The massive ransomware attack that caused damage across the globe over the weekend should be a wake-up call for governments, the president of Microsoft has said.

Security officials around the world are scrambling to find who was behind the attack which affected 200,000 computer users and closed factories, hospitals and schools by using malicious software that believed to have been stolen from the US National Security Agency.

Europol, the pan-European Union crime-fighting agency, said the threat was escalating and predicted the number of ransomware victims was likely to grow across the private and public sectors as people returned to work on Monday.

But Brad Smith, Microsoft presidents and chief legal officer, said on Sunday that it was the latest example of why the stockpiling of vulnerabilities by governments was such a problem.

Smith, whose companys older system software such as Windows XP was exploited by the ransomware, wrote in a blog post : The governments of the world should treat this attack as a wake-up call, Smith wrote. We need governments to consider the damage to civilians that comes from hoarding these vulnerabilities and the use of these exploits.

An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the US military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen.

Cyber security experts said the spread of the virus dubbed WannaCry had slowed but that the respite might only be brief amid fears it could cause new havoc on Monday when employees return to work.

New versions of the worm are expected, they said, and the extent and economic cost of the damage from Fridays attack were unclear.

Its going to be big, but its too early to say how much its going to cost because we still dont know the magnitude of the attacks, said Mark Weatherford, an security executive whose previous jobs included a senior cyber post with the US Department of Homeland Security.

The investigations into the attack were in the early stages, and attribution for cyber attacks is notoriously difficult.

US 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 US security officials held another meeting in the White House situation room on Saturday, and the FBI and the National Security Agency were working to help mitigate damage and identify the perpetrators of the attack, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The NSA is widely believed to have developed the hacking tool that was leaked online in April and used as a catalyst for the ransomware attack.

The original attack lost momentum late on Friday after a security researcher inadvertently took control of a server connected to the outbreak, which crippled a feature that caused the malware to rapidly spread across infected networks.

Infected computers appear to largely be out-of-date devices that organisations deemed not worth the price of upgrading or, in some cases, machines involved in manufacturing or hospital functions that proved too difficult to patch without possibly disrupting crucial operations, security experts said.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

COMMENTS