An unprecedented global cyber attack that infected computers in at least 150 countries beginning on Friday has unleashed a new wave of criticism of the U.S. National Security Agency. And the spread could be just the beginning.
A worldwide WannaCry (also known as WannaCrypt) ransomware attack that wreaked havoc in United Kingdom hospitals and Russian telecom networks, could resurface today as workers return to the office, experts have warned.
The attack held users hostage by freezing their computers, popping up a red screen with the words, "Oops, your files have been encrypted!" and demanding money through online bitcoin payment - $300 at first, rising to $600 before it destroys files hours later.
The attackers remain unknown till date. Among the organisations targeted worldwide have been Germany's rail network Deutsche Bahn, Spanish telecommunications operator Telefonica, US logistics giant FedEx and Russia's interior ministry.
Chinese media reported Sunday that students at several universities were hit, blocking access to their thesis papers and dissertation presentations. In actuality, this is the second attempt at cyber-extortion.
The security firm Kaspersky Lab, based in Russian Federation, noted that Microsoft had repaired the software problem that allows back-door entry into its operating systems weeks before hackers published the exploit linked to the NSA, but noted: "Unfortunately it appears that many users have not yet installed the patch".
And he defended the Government after a National Audit Office report in November warned that taking money away from NHS services would leave them vulnerable, telling BBC Breakfast it was down to individual trusts to protect against vulnerabilities and insisting they had enough money to protect against cyber attacks.
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But McMaster, at a crowded White House news conference, said Trump "wasn't even aware of where this information came from". Justin Amash (R-Mich.), a libertarian-leaning iconoclast who frequently breaks with his party, wrote Tuesday on Twitter .
Microsoft, however, wasn't impressed with the latest attack.
But Smith aimed his sharpest criticisms at the USA and other nations.
The indiscriminate attack, which began on Friday, struck banks, hospitals and Government agencies, exploiting known vulnerabilities in old Microsoft computer operating systems. But they appear to be less damaging than WannaCry.
Once malicious software is in the wild, it is commonly reused by hacking groups, especially nation-states trying to leave the fingerprints of another country. It is not known who is behind the Shadow Brokers. Instead, some opportunist developers, who could be hackers themselves, spotted the leaks and added them to their own software and released them. "We have seen 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", Mr Smith wrote.
On Saturday, a 22-year-old security researcher named Marcus Hutchins inadvertently slowed the spread of the WannaCry virus when he registered a domain name hidden within the virus' code in an attempt to track the spread of WannaCry, unintentionally stopping its progress in the process. The attacks used to only be able to target one machine at a time.
Ransomware was already becoming a higher priority before the WannaCry epidemic of last week, but it's clear that it has now made the shift from nuisance to serious threat.
As early as Sunday morning, new variants of the WannaCry ransomware have been sprouting up, including one that lacks the "kill switch" weakness.
The agency is urging Indian victims to avoid paying the ransom and contact law enforcement for support.
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